By Poppy Tohill
Artist: Tift Merritt
Date / Venue: Wednesday April 23rd, The Tuning Fork, Auckland
After a pleasant and relaxing opening set from the talented Steve Abel whose guitar and smooth vocals perfectly blended with the fiddle from Dave Kahn. The audience were lulled into the perfect mood for the rest of the night, as a petit, and smiley Tift Merritt took to the stage at Auckland's Tuning Fork on Wednesday night.
One of the great aspects of this venue is the fact that it's a fantastic place for the listeners. The seated audience tend to observe and listen quietly, absorbing the music and atmosphere without any chatter or background noise, which can be a nice change from the common over powering loud bars and venues. What was great about this gig I found though, was the engagement from the enthusiastic audience. They still sat in silence soaking up the stunning voice of Merritt, however due to her slightly awkward but completely charming stage presence this intimate venue felt even smaller as Merritt chatted back and forth with audience members from stage throughout her whole set, admitting she was "trying to become our friend."
Opening her set with ‘All The Reasons We Don't Have To Fight,' from her 2010 album ‘See You On The Moon,' she insisted on beginning her set over again after telling the audience and lighting man that the stage lights had made her feel seasick. With the lights soon re-adjusted she began once again, this time stepping away from the microphone to draw the audience in even more so, while singing an exceptional cover of Tom Waits‘Train Song.'Wonderfully setting the tone for what else was to come, the next seven songs, all from her 2012 album ‘Travelling Alone' saw Merritt switch regularly from guitar to keyboard while her stunning vocals continued to fill the room.
Similar to that of Lorde's claw hand trademark, Merritt had her own unique movement and way of throwing herself into her performance, moving her legs, arms and body in unexpected directions as she sang her songs, adding to her quirky stage persona.
Returning to the keyboard for a stunning rendition of Joni Mitchell's ‘For Free,' and her own ‘Small Talk Relations' both proved highlights amongst the audience, leaving fans in awe of her gentle, soothing vocals.
Concluding her set the way she began, Merritt stepped away from the microphone once more, to perform the beautiful ballad ‘Too Soon To Go,' written about her father, who taught her how to play guitar and introduced her to the music of Neil and Joni.
Before you could blink, the crowd had beckoned Merritt back on stage for an encore whereby she presented us with a new song ‘Love Soldiers On' which she admitted to having never performed live before. The evening wrapped up with ‘The Things That Everybody Does' and ‘Feeling Of Beauty,' which led to the well-deserved standing ovation she received from the audience before departing the stage.
Petit and sweet and somewhat shy, but extremely musically talented with the voice to match. Considering Merritt's own reaction to the show and love shown from the audience, I would be very surprised if we didn't see Tift Merritt again on our shores sometime soon, as I have no doubt she made a lot of new friends.