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Live Review: Daniel Merriweather, Saskwatch

19 June 2012 | 2:41 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

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A slightly more highbrow crowd assembles at NSC tonight, tearing themselves away from the Dancing With The Stars grand finale (airing in the front bar) and The Voice. It's no coincidence that opening band Saskwatch starts with “sas”. The local nine-piece bring lashings of soul although you wouldn't pick it if you met them all in a band queue. They've got everything going for them, but stagewear should always be different from what you'd bung on at the last minute for rehearsal. Especially when you're pumping out the kind of music that would make James Brown attempt the splits in his grave. Harking back to the grand days of funk, the band establish themselves onstage before introducing their frontvixen/secret weapon Nkechi Anele with much aplomb. Anele's got a set of lungs to be reckoned with and dances as if her body's bewitched by these cuts. As soon as the four-piece brass section sidesteps in unison, Saskwatch are onto something. Just add a stylist to the payroll, add more choreography and it'll be magic.

After his sold-out performance at the now sadly defunct Phoenix Public House, this is Daniel Merriweather's encore, back-by-popular-demand show. While presenting our stamps to re-enter the bandroom, doorstaff shows us the guestlist Merriweather submitted moments earlier, which is scrawled on the back of an ATM receipt and seems to include some adjustments and scratchings. This no-frills approach extends to his onstage persona: Merriweather is generous with his banter, which makes it worthwhile to remain silent throughout the entire set's duration. Merriweather's material is showcased in duo mode tonight, as it was at the Phoenix show. The devastatingly forlorn Getting Out opens and is appreciated in complete hush. Merriweather tells us he broke up with his missus and, as such, tonight could go either way.

Bradley J Green does well to blend with Merriweather's exquisitely husky, soulful timbre for harmonies. Impressively, Chainsaw's funk flavour translates to two pieces and Merriweather fades out to draw attention to our vocal contributions. The audience sings very tunefully, particularly a handsome gent to our left who should be mic-ed up. Merriweather's voice is like a full orchestra and his personality shines onstage. Introducing one song, he offers: “It's a song I wrote a while ago. It's about – it's about a whole bunch of shit, just listen.” Admitting he wishes his late friend Amy Winehouse had listened harder to the Live By Night lyrics, Merriweather's emotional performance exudes sincerity. It's so quiet inside the venue that when a tinnie is kicked en route to the bar it sounds as loud as a dinosaur's footstep. Merriweather imbibes straight from a liquor bottle throughout the evening, but he's already explained the reason for drowning his sorrows so it comes as no surprise and he wears vin triste well. New track, Love, needs to be a single. What's so special about Merriweather is that liquid way he spans octaves; whether soaring or plummeting he carries our hearts along with every single note, Falling the perfect example. Asking what we're doing tonight, Merriweather invites us along to The Bamboos gig at the Corner where he's rushing straight from this gig for a guest appearance. Anele is invited to the stage to sing Adele's parts in Water And A Flame. Those are some crazy-big shoes to fill, but we're left awestruck. The Saskwatch singer refers to a piece of paper placed on a stool in front of her and the combination of their voices is something that needs immediate studio time. Could Anele be to Merriweather what Kimbra was to Gotye? Red closes and the lyrics clearly tear Merriweather up: “And I can't do this by myself/All of these problems, they're all in your head.” He holds the mic out and we happily oblige, sending this extraordinary artist courage through song.

Now quick! Let's head to the Corner. After getting lost, we arrive in Richmond via Fairfield and fear we've missed our second dose of Merriweather. Tim Rogers is up on stage, resplendent in white suit, and he's killing it in this genre. Whispers abound: Merriweather's in the house, but will he materialise? An announcement is made that he will not be appearing and our mad, The Amazing Race-style dash across town seems in vain. But then out Merriweather comes, casting his vocal spell all over I Never, The Bamboos track on which he features. No one sings about heartbreak and “falling apart” quite like Merriweather. Let's hope he holds it together and keeps kicking out the jams. 

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