Completely out of the blue, I chanced to look in the paper's Arts section and there it was -- an article about Tift Merritt in concert the next night. Well, of course, I ran around like my head was cut-off trying to arrange a babysitter, buy tickets, etc. Oh yeah, and keep it all a secret from my wife! But it all worked out and we found ourselves sitting down for a luxury dinner in a swank new downtown "Jazz Dinner Club" called Anthology. It was magnificent, and small enough that there wasn't a bad seat in the house. Of course we were seated about TEN FEET from the stage! ;-)
So how was it? After my lil' mini-review last week, it just seemed so ironic that I would now get the chance to see her perform. In general, it was a great concert ... but she didn't play my favorite song, "Late Night Pilgrim"?! So that tainted an otherwise wonderful experience, and for the rest of the evening I had the missing song in my head as if to make-up for it's absence.
One problem for me with attending live concerts -- and here comes the "technical" aspect -- is that I have over a decade of experience in live music and concert sound. I spent all five years of college, in fact, working as one of the 'lead' soundmen for the University's Associated Student Body. And so I have a hard time listening to live music without noticing myriad little details about the sound production. True to form, at last night's concert I kept wincing every time the organist swamped the mix, or Tift would get too close to her mike and overload it with false 'basso' (which is what happens when you hog a mike). I actually wondered if the venue was too small to have a proper mixing post, that the 'mains' were being handled remotely by the backstage mixing board. But at the very end of the concert, during the presentation of the band, Tift also thanked her soundman and pointed him out in the back of the club (behind me). So maybe part of the problem was the unfamiliar environment and PA. And, to be honest, the mix definitely improved as the night went on though the organ was problematic throughout.
Finally, I want to mention the guitarist. Before leaving for the concert I reviewed my initial post, where my closing comment was a criticism of "uninspired studio musicians" especially the guitar. Well the newspaper article said that she did, in fact, have a regular band -- sorry! But it did not mention a regular guitarist, so I think my criticism of the studio recording's guitarist probably still holds true, i.e., he/she was not someone with long acquaintance with Tift. I don't know if the guitarist I saw perform last night was the same person who recorded on the album. But he did let loose a bit, shred it up on a couple of opening tunes. So I was satisfied!