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Live Review: Daniel Merriweather - Phoenix Public House

19 May 2012 | 5:35 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

Merriweather pays respect to his old stomping ground on “the Belgrave Line”.

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There's a sandwich board outside the venue advertising there are still tickets available (an absolute steal at $39). How is that even possible? It's a supportive crew who have assembled to soak up Daniel Merriweather's majesty tonight and he serves assorted cuts, alternating trio/duo and solo modes. Merriweather pays respect to his old stomping ground on “the Belgrave Line” by slotting this into the lyrics of a new song from his forthcoming EP, which is gonna be free. Another fresh cut, Love is simply gorgeous despite a few hiccups where the secret muso lingo that navigates where an arrangement is headed lapses. Introducing Falling Down, Merriweather advises this will make more sense once we've read The Perfect Crime by Jean Baudrillard. It's not every day you leave a gig with suggested reading!

Merriweather sings impossibly open notes as if his larynx knows no limits. Stop Me, with clap-percussion replacing drums, shows off the singer's extraordinary grasp of unconventional phrasing. You wholeheartedly believe every lyric he croons, and when the “set me free why don't you babe” segment kicks in Merriweather takes a break and conducts an audience sing-along. Merriweather informs us that although Live By Night was penned before Amy Winehouse's passing, he feels it relates, and the resulting performance leaves us dumbstruck and emotionally drained. A poet is welcomed onstage to recite his poem called My Generation, which Merriweather explains his mum put him on to. Cynics (moi? Never) are immediately silenced the moment Omar Musa presents his rhymes with impressive hip hop nous, throwing his body movement behind observations that swing from witty to cutting. Musa isn't afraid to lunge for the jugular to garner a reaction, and the crowd show their approval with much laughter and a wild round of applause. Here's a sample courtesy of YouTube: “My generation, had hot-buttered sex to cookie-cutter music/We made AutoTuned love/Men learned how to have sex on a curriculum of pixelated-pink pornstar pussy, double-D tits and digital dicks making love between oil spills and massacres.”

Back to Merriweather, who is extremely generous with his in-between-song banter, telling us that a song he wrote when he was 19 years young was inspired by a lot of ill behaviour. He stresses that's all in his past now. Hearing Merriweather's cover of Closer by Nine Inch Nails live for the second time, it still grates. Sorry. So many covers I'd give my right ear to hear him sing, but this one's a clanger. A swoon-central rendition of Red more than makes up for it, though. The dude's a true superstar and doesn't seem to know it. He's obviously working through some shit, but true artists are tortured so bring on the fruits of their chosen form of expression. All singers in the house make a mental note to drink the concoction Merriweather invented before taking the stage tonight: whiskey, tea, honey and boiling water FTW.