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Merchant Pays Her Dues

Natalie Merchant
Riverside Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
June 2, 2002
Natalie Merchant
Natalie Merchant

Review and Photo by Phil Bonyata

Natalie Merchant no longer graces the charts as she once did 10 years ago with 10,000 Maniacs or seven years ago as she did on her solo album Tigerlilly, but she brought her rootsy star power to the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee for a one night gig.
Natalie Merchant looked like she was speeding up the aging process as she entered the stage wearing a very loose fitting flower print dress along with a frumpy shawl to top it off. This was not the outfit of a rock star, but then Natalie Merchant is no rock star.
She slowly walked to her piano and did an introverted, yet powerful, rendition of "The Living," a song about suicide. It carried it's message a bit too far as the song's slow paced chorus got lost in too many retellings. The song was simply way too long. Was this going to be a night of self righteous female angst? The answer was soon to be a resounding no. She traded in the shawl for a feather boa and let her hair hang free. Natalie started to sway her hips in a tender and poetic way. Her voice hit the usually unattainable high range on "Wonder." Her tender steps morphed into a sensual gypsy dance. While not a traditional beauty, Merchant has her female mojo working in overdrive. She really let her pipes flow free on "San Andreas Fault," "I'm Not Gonna Beg" and "Put the Law on You." Her nearly two hour set was filled with enough good material to remind many in attendance that she is still a vital and relevant artist with something to say.

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