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Live Review: Daniel Merriweather & Ali Barter

19 February 2013 | 9:04 am | Kate Kingsmill

“Are there any Nine Inch Nails fans out there?” he asks as he flings his acoustic guitar over his shoulder, following up the enquiry with the sweetest version of Closer you’ll ever hear.

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Fresh from her appearance at Laneway, Ali Barter and her band bring her ethereal synth-pop sounds to the Corner, but it's more sunny Sunday afternoon material than Richmond Saturday night. Barter has an angelic voice and some interesting textural, breezy songs that at times sound a bit like Lamb, but it's not quite the right environment for it.

What do you do if you're Daniel Merriweather – from New York via The Dandenongs – and it's your 30th birthday? You play a gig in your hometown and invite all your friends. He's apparently taken time out from writing his forthcoming album to play these shows, and while they've been billed as previewing new material and it's been four years since the last album, new stuff is few and far between. No complaints, though. Truthfully, no one seems to be sick of the stuff from Love & War yet anyway, and besides, his band tonight are the very excellent Saskwatch, who were his support band in Melbourne last year. “Give it up for Saskwatch,” he says. “I only called them [about the gig] 48 hours ago, no kidding.” They are tight, soulful and amazing.

They kick off with a couple of tracks from Love & War Getting Out, then Cigarettes – during which Merriweather appears to briefly forget his lines, despite being on the water tonight. The stunning Live By Night stills the crowd, not that it was exactly jumping to begin with. Even the power of Change doesn't help things much. Merriweather's mate, MC Illy, hits the stage for Wale's rap bit in Change, opens his mouth, and promptly drops the mic. He scrambles it back, and carries on where he left off, eliciting an embarrassed giggle from the audience. He apologises to Merriweather as he leaves the stage. “At least it wasn't a wardrobe malfunction,” quips Merriweather in return.

Our man goes back to when he was “19 and stupid” and performs Pot Of Gold, Saskwatch transforming it from its original hip hop styles to a soul groove. So, Chainsaw is about Jameson whiskey; who knew? Tonight's version is stunning, and is followed by the incredible and hypnotic Falling Down, a newer track, which bodes well for the hopefully forthcoming album. Merriweather's voice is jaw-dropping, even when it's breaking.

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“Are there any Nine Inch Nails fans out there?” he asks as he flings his acoustic guitar over his shoulder, following up the enquiry with the sweetest version of Closer you'll ever hear – fast becoming a live favourite. Another new track, Love, sees the fragrant, long-haired girls of the audience swooning; and the swooning continues, with even the blokes in this odd, mixed-up crowd singing along to Red. An impromptu version of Happy Birthday erupts for Merriweather, and he grins and launches into the brilliant Stop Me, which brings the gig to an end; no encore.