Written by Samuel Barker
Dec 06, 2001 at 08:00 PM
ImageLike a child playing in a field, that is the best way to describe the way Natalie Merchant looked frolicking around the stage on this cool December night. It surprising that after so many years of playing music she can still have such a passion for everything she does.

The night began with a capacity crowd making their way into the Aerial Theater to see Natalie Merchant’s tour for her newest release, Motherland. Everyone got to their seats in plenty of time to make sure they were ready for the show when it began. As the curtain opened, you could have heard a pin drop. Natalie made her way on stage and her band went into George Harrison’s ‘Something.’ This was her way of showing grief for the death of the Beatle who had died only a week before this performance. This song saw Natalie hold her spot at the mic throughout. The soft blue lights fit with her somber vocals. She really took the song down a notch to make it fit the mood.

As the lights warmed up, so did Natalie. As ‘San Andreas Fault’ began, Natalie began dancing and swinging her skirt around like a child listening to her favorite songs. You could genuinely feel the joy in the air, and the happiness she felt on stage performing. She never said a word between songs and just danced and sang the night away. She played songs from her previous releases and even from her previous band, 10,000 Maniacs.

The crowd sang along and danced as well to make one unified feeling sweep through the audience. It was a great sight. ‘Hey Jack Kerouac’ was one of the first songs to have everyone break out in song. It was wonderful to see people sing their way through such tracks as ‘Wonder,’ ‘Build A Levee,’ and ‘Carnival.’ The set ended with the first single from her new album, ‘This House Is On Fire.’ It added a strange feel to the show, but was a great deal of fun. The middle Eastern mood had the people who hadn’t heard the album staring in awe.

After a short break, Natalie made her way back on stage. This time she was ready to talk to the audience and even tell some jokes. It was nice to see a performer talking to her fans like they were old friends. She did a hilarious Richard Pryor routine while telling everyone that they had been watching him in the bus. The encore began with ‘Motherland,’ which was a beautiful way to kick things off. Everyone enjoyed that track and then burst into applause as she began ‘These Are Days.’ The mood of the second encore was considerable lighter than that of the previous set. Natalie danced as wild as ever and smiled throughout the encore set. She was having a blast.

Finally, she was done, said her ‘good-byes,’ and made her way off the stage. A few people started leaving, but the rest of the audience began chanting for more. Their prayers were answered when she came out to her piano and began playing ‘Gulf of Araby.’ She played a few more songs, finished dancing away her night, and faded into the night. Like a child dancing in the field, the sun finally went down, it was time to go home.