Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen Merrill performed for Austin City Limits Television last night and she was NOT fucking around. This was my third time seeing a performance from tUnE-yArDs and it was incredibly impressive. One of the most exhilarating things about seeing a live performance from tUnE-yArDs is to witness the construction of the songs. When you listen to W H O K I L L it sounds great but what you might not realize is the majority of the record is vocals and percussion. Merrill starts most songs with a microphone that is attached to a looping pedal. She adds elements of the song that loop and become the canvas for the song. Some of these elements are vocal, some are percussive but most all of them are Merrill herself. She started her set with the song Party Can (Do You Want to Live), which is actually not on either one of her records but is a staple of her live set. It's truly a tone setter starting with just Merrill herself adding her layers and textures until she is throatily screaming, "Do you want to live?!?!" At most shows after this question is shouted to the crowd they respond with a resounding "YEAH!!" Last night this did not happen at first, which sort of frightened me because the audience interaction is one of the best things about seeing tUnE-yArDs live so I took it upon myself to get things going. I was sitting in the mezzanine, which made things slightly awkward but next time the chorus came around and Merrill shouted, "Do you want to live?!?" I shouted "YEAH!!!" with all my might. Luckily, this cued the crowd so the next time I wasn't the only one and then by the third time I think most of the audience was into it. From that moment on, the atmosphere was electric.
It was apparent that a majority of the audience had never even heard anything from tUnE-yArDs before, which is the best way to go into one of their shows. As the performance progressed I looked around to see people completely entranced and energized by Merrill's spirit. You could tell the gravity being booked for Austin City Limits was not lost on Merrill. She acknowledged how lucky she felt for the opportunity and was very aware of the idea that here musician parents would be watching this performance at some point in the near future. She thanked the show and thanked PBS for making her the person she is today mentioning the importance of Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Mister Rogers.
I applaud the producers of Austin City Limits for making such a risky booking. I'm sure there are a lot of people who will be confused and even shocked by tUnE-yArDs performance when it airs but I'm incredibly impressed that the people behind ACLTV went to bat for one of the most exciting and innovative performers in indie-rock today. Even those of you who don't enjoy listening to tUnE-yArDs at home couldn't help but be impressed with her soulful, passionate performances. She is truly a trail-blazing artist whose influence will reach far beyond her time performing and I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to be in attendance at last night's taping.
For those of you who purchased tickets to tonight's sold-out show at the Mohawk, may I suggest face paint?
tUnE-yArDs - My Country video via YouTube