Understated and underrated. Those are two words I would use to describe Mr. Daniel Merriweather. The people at his label, J Records/Sony Music were nice enough to send me to review the show and I have to say I was left wanting more. More of Daniel Merriweather.
The evening started out with me casually walking up to the “Will Call” window, and saying – “I’m on Daniel Merriweather’s list.” I thought I kind of sounded like a big deal. Of course, I wasn’t on the list. Lucky for me I had been given his tour manager, John Martin’s number. This was not what I wanted to do…luckily he answered relatively quickly. The conversation went a little something like this:
“Hey John? My name is Jamie. I’m a music blogger, Sarah over at Sony said that you’d put me on the list?”
“Sorry Jamie. What’s the last name?”
After giving him my name, “You wanted to talk to Dan after the show, right?”
“Oh…um. I didn’t know that was an option,” I said nervously…but yeah! That’d be great!”
“Stick around the merchandise counter…you going to be around the merchandise counter, yeah?” “Yeah” says a voice, I can only assume was Dan Merriweather himself.
“Yeah, stick around the merchandise counter, I’ll come find you.”
I died. After getting in the club and through security, my + 1, the lovely Ashley, bought me a drink and we snagged a spot to stand, coincidentally right next to the merchandise counter! Good timing, as Dan Merriweather was just starting the first song of his ENTIRELY too short set.
Merriweather was dressed uber-casual, in a black leather jacket layered over a simple cardigan, with black skinny jeans and brown Oxford shoes. Merriweather started out the show with his next U.S. single “Impossible,” off of his album Love & War (penned by Merriweather, Mark Ronson & Dejion Madison) Merriweather sounded fantastic. It wasn’t a big spectacle, just Dan, his mic and his band mates. Bringing up a stool and sinking into it, Merriweather treated the restless audience to a beautiful rendition of album track #9, “Getting Out” (co-written by Merriweather & Francis White). I have to say, another brilliant performance. This guy has undeniable power and vocal range in his voice, which is a bit surprising considering the smokey quality of his voice. Merriweather’s vocal is a bit rough around the edges, meaning not perfect, which in my opinion is so sexy. I don’t think a vocal should sound perfect. This is what I want to hear, something that sounds un-produced and natural, and that’s what Merriweather delivered.
Next up was “Cigarettes” (by Merriweather & Jordan Galland), a tune that Merriweather described as being about all past relationships he’s messed up. Removing his jacket, Merriweather introduced the net song, an American folk classic “In The Pines,” attributing the song to folk and blues singer Lead Belly. This cover brilliantly showcased Merriweather’s lower register, further solidifying his position as one of my favorite male vocalists in recent years. Here’s an interesting tidbit about the song…while Lead Belly did in fact record the song half-a-dozen or so times, the song is actually thought to date back to the 1870s. Also known as “Black Girl” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” it was made famous in 1993 when Nirvana played an acoustic version. Over the years it’s been touched by greats like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Dolly Parton and Tracy Bonham. Go ahead and add Daniel Merriweather to the list…a simply beautiful rendition.
On “Change,” I didn’t know what to expect. The original album version features American rapper Wale on the track, complementing the track’s urban/R&B feel but what was going to happen without Wale. I should have known that Merriweather would be just fine without his counterpart. He turned the track into a beautiful solo number, filling the song with vocal riffs, proving the those that were listening that this guy can really SANG. “I wanted to play a couple of my favorites,” Merriweather explained before launching into his next number, a cover of Paul McCartney’s 1970 song “Maybe I’m Amazed.” That song hit the top ten on Billboard’s pop chart back in 1977 when it was released as a single by McCartney’s band Wings. Another standout. Daniel Merriweather closed the set with current U.S. single, the beautiful, emotional politically-driven “Red.” Merriweather has explained the song in past interviews, stating that the song is about ‘the blindness of war and the absence of compassion displayed by Western administrations.” What a way to end the show.
After Merriweather left the stage, I kept hoping for an encore. I know that the majority of the audience wasn’t there to see him, but my God. How could you not stop and take notice! While there were a good many people genuinely engaged by the performance, there was a decent number of people clearly waiting for the show’s headliner, Corinne Bailey Rae to take the stage (who, by the way was amazing as well). I’m of the mindset that you’re paying for the whole experience which includes the opener and the headliner. Whatever. Daniel Merriweather deserves his own spotlight here in the States and I think it’s coming. How can America NOT take notice of this guy? He’s got the total package.
After the set, waiting near the merchandise counter, I started getting nervous. I knew there was NO WAY his tour manager was going to be able to find me (given that he didn’t know what I looked like) but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by. In retrospect, maybe I was supposed to wait around the merchandise counter until AFTER all of the autographs had been signed? Oh well. At any rate, I joined the line that had started to form in front of the counter and patiently waited for the arrival of Mr. Merriweather. Luckily I had my copy of his CD with me (I had brought it for Ashley to listen to, as she hadn’t heard of him). By the time my turn came, I had run through about 10 questions that I wanted to ask him. Realizing that there was a line behind me, I settled on one.
Shaking his hand, I complimented him on the set, to which he humbly thanked me. I explained that I’d been a fan for a while, since the Mark Ronson “Stop Me” days and through all of his success int he UK. I asked him about the next U.S. single. He told me that, in all likelihood, “Impossible” would be released as the next single, followed most likely by “Water and a Flame” (featuring Adele). While I love both songs, given their disappointing chart performance in the UK (“Impossible” peaked at #67, “Water and a Flame” failed to chart at all) I’m surprised they didn’t go a different route. Oh well. Not my decision.
After handing me back my CD, I had Ashley snap a quick picture with my Blackberry and shook his hand one last time. I was literally shaking. “To Jamie. Thanks for the support.” To Daniel. You’re welcome. You are a star.