Written by Eddie Ferranti
Aug 10, 2010 at 07:30 PM
ImageNatalie Merchant has been a favorite of mine since the early 80’s.  It is rare these days to see performers with that much longevity in the business still touring.  Granted it has been eight years since she adorned this same stage in Houston and also the first album she has put out, too. “Leave Your Sleep” is her latest double disc anthology of sorts of early-to mid -20th century British and American poetry.

Merchant is not afraid to express herself and I was interested how a children’s collection of tunes would come off.  Well she got off to a bad start with this reviewer when she made me shoot pictures from the REAR of the venue.  Say what?  If you’ve ever read anything I’ve spit out before you know this is a pet peeve of mine.  That being said it is her gig and she can do what she wants.  Like have a freakin’ slide show at a concert!

NM chose to deliver a narrative description intro to EVERY poem she was about to perform.  The crowd was getting a bit restless to say the least judging by their silence.  A power point presentation type show where she spent at least 30 minutes- out of the first 90 -talking.   However,  Merchant handled the shouts for requests in good banter and promised we would be taken care of.  And that is where the show was saved in my opinion.

The new material actually came across quite well with cuts like “Bleezer’s Ice Cream”, “Calico Pie”, “If No One Ever Marries Me”, and “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child”.  As she heated up in her performance I came to realize why I was so attracted to her for all these years.  Swirling, prancing, hand jivin’, and just enjoying herself on stage IS Natalie Merchant.  Her powerful “honey and husky” voice never sounded better. On gems like “Peppery Man” and “I’m in Love with the Janitor Boy” her throaty smoothness was sweet to hear.  Following a brief break in this odd concert,  Merchant came back to cut loose on a super sized encore!  She flashed thru her own catalog dancing in earnest and prowling the stage from side to side. “Carnival” and “Hey Jack Kerouac” ruled.  “Wonder” was fantastic and it made me get up and boogie with the lady ! In closing, do I like gigs like this?  Not really.  As I said earlier it was her show and if she wants to make it about what she wanted to do rather than considering what her audience expected so be it.

Did I have a good time?  Hell yes I did. The warmth that overwhelmed at times made me reflective of the 80’s and beyond and all the friends that actually turned me on to Merchant and I’m still in touch with today. After all, isn’t seeing and listening to music supposed to be an escape from the reality of the worldly stress we endure day to day?  She might of delivered that escape in a round about way,  but at least she delivered something………….That’s my rant for the day!  Y’all be cool and go see something……….