Johnny Hi-Fi (alias Eric Hsu) played to a sparse but enthusiastic crowd at NYC’s Mercury Lounge Tuesday night. Far from their Austin TX home, the Taiwan native and his fine band cranked out a tight set of melodic rock that brought to mind a slightly less crunchy, more lyrical Weezer. Highlights included “If This Could Only Last,” the Beatle-esque ballad “Dedicated to Lisa,” and the hit-worthy anthem “Passive Killer.” The live band has a more muscular sound than their recorded tracks, but the songs stand up well in both settings. Don’t take my word for it, though – pretty much everything they’ve recorded is available on their website. As “Johnny” joked on stage, “It’s not like I’m making money from my songwriting, so take it! Take it all!”
The Mercury Lounge’s excellent sound system was cranked a little too loud for the sparse crowd to absorb. And there were a couple of songs in foreign langauges that, while not bad songs, sapped some momentum in the middle of the set. Other than that, Johnny Hi-Fi put on a perfect show. He’s got the songs, the liquid tenor voice to put them across, the players, and equally important, an endearing, slinky, yet somehow humble, rock-star-poser persona. He deserves more fans than showed up for this gig. But then, it was far from home. And take it from me, New York’s a tough town. If Johnny Hi-Fi remains this prolific and hardworking, wider success should just be a matter of time. They could even take a bite out of the Big Apple.
CDs available on their website here.