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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

December 11, 2005

Tift does indeed Rock

Tift Rocks
Originally uploaded by Kurisu.

I Didn't take my camera, because I didn't want to lug it around, but went to see Tift Merritt last night at the Radcliffe Centre in Buckingham. The pictures here are borrowed from various flickr sets.

Performing with two other musicians (percussionist and guitarist), or solo, she inspired the audience to worship in the converted church, taking advantage of the church acoustics to sing without PA or microphone on "Supposed to Make You Happy", and using the in-house grand piano extensively, for example on the crowd-pleasing "Good Hearted Man.".

The only other person I've ever seen who had the guts to step out from behind a mic and perform without amp/PA is Jonathan Richman. To me it's a measure of real class, because I've rarely been at a small gig (particularly one with mainly acoustic instruments) where I didn't feel the PA got in the way.

Tift Merritt
Originally uploaded by cahernan.

Her piano performances in particular were fantastic. I think where she has used a piano at live gigs (judging from the photos on flickr), it's been an electric or digital model. She said at the beginning that she didn't know how it was that she got so lucky as to finish her 13-month Tambourine tour in a church with a grand piano. It was such an intimate venue that you could hear the clump of her high heels on the floor as she kept time.

It was a Buckingham crowd, which meant that I felt like a mere whippersnapper at 43 years of age. The audience was respectfully quiet (allowing for the non-PA moments), but at the same time reluctant to join in with Ms Merritt when she attempted to get them to sing on "Shadow in the Way." She kept making ironic comments about the rowdiness of the crowd, and you felt for her, but I don't think in the end that it detracted from her performance. And since the last gig I went to was characterised by constant and intrusive natter and a steady stream of trips to and from the bar, I can't say I was too sorry.

It was a Radio 2 crowd, too, and I suspect many people hadn't bought either of her albums, but had heard "Good Hearted Man" on the wireless - since that's the only one that was greeted with applause.

Support act was the shoe-gazing and too-twee The Havenots, a Leicester duo who have been touring the UK with Merritt. Sophia, the singer, seems not to have picked up on the way Tift sings from her diaphragm, fills the room, imbues everything with emotion, and, you know, moves about - a missed opportunity, I think. I bought their album anyway, because I'm sure selling CDs at gigs is an important source of income for them. I'll give it a listen and let you know what they're like with a full band.

For the encore, Tift Merritt performed "Sunday" (from Bramble Rose), which she said she hadn't done in so long that she needed the words in front of her. That said, I didn't see her look at them, so it was more for security I guess.

Predictably, she played a tambourine on "Tambourine" (and on "Shadow", I think), and played it so hard that I thought her hand would drop off.

Tift still rocking
Originally uploaded by 5500.

Anyway, to use a technical term, this was fucking excellent and now usurps Maria McKee at the Town and Country in 1991 as Officially the Best Gig Ever.


  • Helpful alert - TM in session on Mark Radcliffe tonight...

    By Blogger patrische, at 3:17 am  

  • Spooky naming coincidence - Saturday at the Radcliffe centre, Monday on Mark Radcliffe. And which of the 6 billion radio stations in the UK (most of which can be heard by tuning to 5Live on AM) is Mark Radcliffe on?

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 3:24 am  

  • That'll be BBC Radio 2

    By Anonymous Radio Correspondent, at 3:37 am  

  • 10.30pm onwards...

    PS. I saw Maria McKee at the Old Vic, Nottingham (now called something else, God knows what...) in 1990. She was indeed fucking excellent, and headbutted the microphone with worrying frequency/verocity. She was accompanied by Bruce Brody, but mostly solo. Awe-inspiring.

    By Blogger patrische, at 3:46 am  

  • Thanks - past bedtime, so I'll stick my SD card in my DAB and record it.

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 3:46 am  

  • I played the old Vic in 1989. That was quite a nice intimate room. I'm never going to a gig at a bigger venue again. It's a policy thing.

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 3:49 am  

  • Last time I played there was 1987.

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 4:43 am  

  • Tift without PA and mic and in a church with a grand piano?!

    Lucky bastard. Lucky bastard indeed.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 9:20 am  

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