Eddie Murphy,’99, played a respectably full Currier Ballroom on Thursday night “approximately one hour of original music,” as the flyers said. It didn’t seem as though this was the first time he’d played his very own show, though he assures me it was. He was comfortable on the mic, bantering with the audience and poking comfortable fun at the intensity of his music and his strict chain-smoking vocal warmup before launching into the set. Which was wonderful. Each and every song had a wealth of musical and lyrical inventiveness when the stereotypical expectations on “folk” or “popular” music often condemn it to simplicity or repetitiveness.
The show, though, wasn’t about musical or lyrical invention, though it very easily could have been. The show was about compressed energy, about chunks of raw emotion stamped into a dozen or so three-minute segments. About love lost or never won, about panic or depression, about a fluorescent nightlife that you could hear under the bell-like sonorities on an out-of-tune piano. He won us over step by step. After telling us about a nasty breakup, the sky outside exploded, leftovers from the display at Weston field signalling another inauguration. Very nice coincidence. The night was full of surprises like that: A prepared encore and then an impromptu one because people just wouldn’t shut up and sit down if he didn’t play some more, a verse begun with “I don’t give a fâ€”k about you” sung over a jovial 6/8, an artist holding a room at maximum attention and emotional output for an hour then some during his very first show. I could almost hear his grandmother in the corner. “That’s my Eddie. He plays so beautiful.”
Satisfied people left Currier Ballroom with a lot on their minds. It may be the mark of a gifted songwriter to have that effect on a room, to start a powerful cycle of feeling and memory that lets audience emote almost as readily and as much as the performer. Not quite that much, though. On Thursday night he was in a league of his own.