Tift Merritt at The Five Spot
A quick editorial note: I'm Brandon, not Rich. But Rich was nice enough to let me post a few words about the Tift Merritt show this last Thursday. Here they are.
Just before Tift Merritt took the stage at The Five Spot this last Thursday (4/24), a huge bear of a man tapped me on my shoulder. I turned to look at him. He asked me if this was my first time seeing Tift. Trudy and I said yes. He replied that this was his 30th time seeing her.
It would turn out to be a night of these kind of opposites butting heads. Older fans mingled with those who discovered Tift because of the buzz around her latest album, Another Country. The funky folk-art vibe of The Five Spot took on a French flair, helped by an intimate opening performance by Parisian troubadour Naim Amor—and a subtitled black and white French film played during the set change. People packed into the sold-out room, making it hotter than it ever should be on a cool April evening.
Tift’s performance kept up that wonderful play of opposites. Halfway through her second song, Trudy turned to me and yelled in my ear, “she’s like the love-child of Carole King and Janis Joplin.” It was the perfect way to describe the dichotomy of the show, which swung from bluesy, belting rock-outs on songs like “My Heart Is Free“ to quiet, honest performances on songs like “Keep You Happy.“ She’s one hell of a versatile singer, and her backing band was both tight and smart: they knew when to step back and let her shine—and when to let loose with intense solos, like an incredible 2-minute mid-show organ romp.
Tift Merritt - Keep You Happy [at Zshare; from Another Country]
The heat of the crowded room may have made some fans a little restless. A few times during the show, the crowd at the bar got loud enough that Tift actually seemed pretty off-put by it. But when she was able to rein in that energy, things got magical. At one point in the show, she climbed up onto a three-foot amp at the left side of the stage with nothing but a harmonica and a guitar. And, without a microphone, she began to strum the opening chords to "Supposed To Make You Happy." The harmonica cut through the room, and the audience could do nothing but shut up and watch. And as she coyly delivered the chorus in 3-part harmony with her guitarists—“All my love, supposed to make you happy”—the crowd sat first in stunned silence and then, as if whispering a quiet hymn, joined in. And Tift smiled and kept playing.
That big bear of a man said something else before the concert began. He looked right at me and said, “When she comes out, put your hands in the air,” he said. “She likes that. And I just want this to be a great show for her.”
I hope it was for her. It was for us.
Some more photos of the show here.