As I sat and watched Andrew Keoghan perform last Thursday night at Meow, eight words repeatedly flowed through my head, “He should be more popular than he is.”
In a different era, the Kiwi citizen now Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist would be a star. He’s a combination of Andrew Bird, Babyface, and Julia Holter with a voice that equally belongs on radio and in musicals and talent that is grander than his 6′ 1″ frame. He’s a classically trained violinist, a skilled pianist, and an exceptional guitar player, and he’s become adept with the synthesizer. In addition, he’s a witty storyteller in the mould of Courtney Barnett. All these characteristics were showcased on his penultimate show of his tour.
Joined by bassist Cass Basil (who also performs with Tiny Ruins) and Alistair Deverick on drums, Keoghan kicked off his set with the low-key, synth-pop ballad “Running”, which is the last song on his stellar sophomore album, Every Orchid Offering. The song allowed Keoghan to showcase his voice while setting the mood for what is to come – an unpredictable event. His inventiveness and quirky mind were released on the title track, where Keoghan brought out his violin and turned the classical instrument into pulsating tinges of an electric guitar. This wasn’t a rock track; instead the song progressed into a delirious electro-pop number.
“Arctic Tales Divide”, the title track from Keoghan’s debut album, was transformed into a groovy, sultry track while the funk arrived in the form of “No Simple Doll”. The humourous and lively “Queues at Dani Keys” turned Meow into a dance club, and the guest appearance of The Phoenix Foundation’s drummer Chris O’Connore – who banged on a stool, glasses, a box, and whatever he could get his hands on – added to the jovial moood. Given Keoghan’s classical background, a bit of theatre, of course, was on the setlist. “They Don’t Want Boyfriends” was post-modern rock opera at its finest, and “Stuck In Melodies”, which featured Eva Prowse, provided a modern take of Romeo and Juliet.
Like how he commenced the concert, Keoghan ended it with a song that showcased his voice. With just an acoustic guitar, Keoghan serenaded us with the dreamlike “Spots on the Leaves”. It was a fascinating choice to end the gig after being taken on a trip of orchestral pop and electronic-infused, symphonic R&B. Was this a clue as to what is to come from the gifted artist, like a Radical Face-like album? Or was it Keoghan’s way of saying thank you to his home country and to a city he called home for several years? There is probably some deep-seeded meaning, but it left a lasting memory and continues to make me wonder, “So why is Andrew Keoghan not more popular?”
The aforementioned Eva Prowse opened up the concert. From Americana to folk-rock to ’80s synth-pop to baroque pop, the Wellington-based singer-songwriter was all over the music map, but there was no question about her talent. Like Keoghan, she is a witty songwriter, crafting songs influenced (or dedicated to) TV shows like The Wire and The Game of Thrones. But maybe more than Keoghan, she is a musical chameleon, making me wonder exactly what albums reside on her shelves at home. Prowse is an artist we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Words are by Ben Yung. Photos are by Dan Robinson.
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Setlist for Andrew Keoghan’s concert
2. Every Orchid Offering
3. Arctic Tales Divide
4. When a Lover Comes Back To You
5. No Simple Doll
6. They Don’t Want a Boyfriend
7. Won’t Let You Go
8. Stuck In Melodies
9. Something Going On
10. Queues At Dani Keys
12. Spots On The Leaves
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