Tranquilised zombies sway to the mesmerizing sounds of the headliner
At Daniel Merriweather’s gig at (the now-closed) Phoenix Public House back in May 2012 we were teased with the news of an upcoming EP, which the artist announced would be free. Damn well hope we didn’t miss this release, because the new material he presented at that show was next level! Perhaps he’s saved these up and intends to add the songs he’s been writing in LA lately (Merriweather previews one he introduces as Indivisible this evening) for an upcoming album?
Arriving at the venue with enough time to get a decent posi, we note that Merriweather attracts the type of punter who wants to get close, but not be obvious about it. The front stalls are spacious and then it’s more packed the further back you retreat. Peering over at the setlist, nine songs are listed and Red is the only familiar song title (psyched to hear it again, though). The advertised starting time comes and goes. Audience members shuffle forward at irregular intervals like tranquilised zombies.
Four musicians and two photographers eventually wander out on stage and settle in their spots. There’s massive applause for Merriweather. He certainly has a distinctive style and tonight chooses a black suit jacket over ribbed wife beater in matching hue, ankle freezer pants, no socks and fancy loafers.
"You simply can’t drag your peepers away from him since star quality oozes from every pore."
His random tats are edgy and that assorted neck bling has just gotta be from Merriweather’s personal collection of sentimental/spiritual pieces. And whatever Merriweather does, you simply can’t drag your peepers away from him since star quality oozes from every pore. Merriweather encourages us to take over singing the chorus for Red, the second single from his Mark Ronson-produced second album Love & War (which made it to number two on the UK Albums Chart). He gazes around, delighted that we still know all the words. Merriweather perches on a stool for a few tracks and requests a towel from the wings, which he admires for being “absorbent”.
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A few songs from tonight’s selection sound familiar from that 2012 show: Falling Down, which is ridiculously good with its unravelling melody and repetitive “Build it… Destroy it” lyrics that seem to channel Merriweather’s career trajectory and personal demons, and Love, which the artist tells us is “about love and the opposite of love, but mostly about love” – a showstopper. And then, with a “peace and love”, Merriweather leaves the stage after the nine songs. His backing band play on for a while, which gives us a chance to appreciate them without Merriweather pulling focus.
"He might need a towel more than most at the moment."
A ‘hype man’ takes the mic to make us work hard, screaming for “another song” (we end up scoring two): Change featuring a ripping lead guitar solo during which there’s a deafening crowd clap-along, and the singer’s insurmountable Version of The Smiths’ Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before. He might need a towel more than most at the moment, even while performing seated, but Merriweather’s talent is undeniable. And thank god whatever he’s recovering from hasn’t damaged those precious vocal cords.