RIFF RADIO: Amy Shark finds strength in honesty on ‘Love Monster’

SAN FRANCISCO — “I just want to be able to play here forever,” mused Amy Shark, sitting backstage a level below the dance floor at the Great American Music Hall. The Australian singer-songwriter is riding high following the recent release of her debut LP, Love Monster, an album that has launched her on a tour all over the world.

In Australia, Shark’s debut, “Adore,” just crossed the quadruple-platinum threshold. Her last tour of her home country sold out completely. The Love Monster tour has her criss-crossing the U.S. Prior to her San Francisco show Friday, her third in the Bay Area this year, Amy Shark joined a delegation from RIFF to talk about her busy year.

Shark’s success is fueled not only by her talent, but also her drive to succeed. Even with her spirited persistence, there were moments when she doubted she’d find success in the music business.

“I’d already sort of shut up shop,” she said of her earlier years. “I just wasn’t getting any reward from doing it. I had totally given up.”

Amy Shark

Amy Shark at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Sept. 28 2018. Photos: Gary Chancer.

Shark was working as a video editor for an Australian soccer club when she released “Adore” in 2016. The song would alter her career choice greatly. She released her debut EP, Night Thinker, in March 2017, but had enough unused material to create much of the foundation for what would become Love Monster.

Taking the Great American Music Hall stage in a black tracksuit with gold trim, Shark took fans on a journey through her life, taking the time to speak with fans between songs and explain some of the songs’ meanings and inspirations. Shark bounced and bobbed, swaying in time to the heavy grooves laid down by her backing musicians. She covered the majority of Love Monster along with songs from Night Thinker, along with a rousing cover of the Wheatus punk-pop jam “Teenage Dirtbag.”

Shark’s ace in the hole is a powerful upper register in her voice, and she unleashed it at just the right bridge or final chorus of a song to add a dramatic depth and power to her performance. Shark also has an ability to make her deeply personal and intense songs accessible to others. She preceded the lyrically heavy “Middle of the Night” by telling a humorous story of an old boyfriend’s conversation with his mother about Shark’s mental anxiety state.

Amy Shark

Amy Shark performs at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Sept. 28, 2018.

She professed her love for Blink-182 before breaking into one of her “favorite songs she’s ever written,” “Psycho,” which she recorded with Mark Hoppus.

Amy Shark ended her set with a blistering one-two punch of “Adore” and “I Said Hi.” She spoke of her special connection with San Francisco; where radio played her songs early in her success. As she left the stage she high-fived and shook fans hands, then took a moment to stand at the side of the station, seeming genuinely taken aback by the adoration she received.

Singer-songwriter Tyler Hilton opened the concert with a smooth and impressive solo set of acoustic songs. The former One Tree Hill actor previewed selections from his upcoming album along with crowd favorites, and topping it off with a cover of Rhianna’s “Stay.” Hilton had a natural sensibility on stage, joking about his time on One Tree Hill, the GAMH being haunted by instrument-wielding ghosts, and his own Amy Shark fandom.

Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.

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