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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Morrissey and Mia Riddle

Christy Sheppard
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Scene + Heard Concert Review: Morrissey at the National and Mia Riddle at Poe's

Sometimes you look forward to a show for a long time and you end up disappointed. Sometimes you hear a band's recorded music and are bummed when you hear them live. Sometimes, though, reality exceeds your expectations.

I saw two shows last week that were excellent. I see a lot of shows. Shows about which I don't usually care enough to write.

These two shows I didn't want to let fade from my ever-waning memory without putting down in writing for all of you (and all of the world!) to see. Hey, I'm a giver.

First, I caught Mia Riddle and Her Band as they stopped through Richmond via Poe's Pub on their way to Austin's SXSW, promoting their album, Tumble and Drag.

I arrived around 8:15 (because I thought the show as supposed to start at 8) and around 10 o'clock all preparation was complete and Mia's band was ready to go.

I'd been listening to their myspace playlist for a few days prior to the event because I never like going to show completely in the blind, and Mia's band is new to me. She sounded just as great in person as she did in recording. She was pop and she was rock, and she was a little country ... a delightful mixture.

Mia's voice continually reminded me of Jenny Lewis'; a comparison most would welcome. Although she did sound a little raspy and admitted she was battling a cold, it didn't distract from her performance and her voice was strong and pleasant.

I don't know if you've ever seen a show at Poe's but the "stage" is rather small. On several occasions I felt like the band really wanted to rock out but were hindered by the size of the stage. Despite the space limitations, they made the most of the night, and our attention spans.

Everyone but Dave Wyss (bass) had a mic; geez, he must really be a bad singer, huh? I kid.

The rest of the band consisted of Amy Merrill (keys, back-up vocals), Dan Barry (guitar, back-up vocals) and Jeff Neuberger (drums, back-up vocals). Mia stuck to singing and the guitar although she also plays the glockenspiel and keys.

Amy and Mia harmonized well and sounded sweet together. At the risk of sounding creepy, Amy had these super delicate fingers that looked as if they were sculpted just for the keys or for rescuing objects that have fallen into really tight spaces (or for stealing food from the vending machine). She had a funny smirk on her face that lasted most of the set. Apparently we were all having a great time.

As a testament to their songwriting skills, I recognized "Grandchildren", "City Song" and "Open Wide" right away and (happily) was even able to sing along.

In red flats that matched Amy's keyboard, Mia stomped and played her way though the set. I'm compelled to liken her to actor-turned-singer Zooey Deschanel; but Mia has a stonger voice and she's cuter, too. Sorry, I'm only into She & Him sans the "She &" part.

This was the first stop on their tour, so naturally they had a few blips here and there but they easily laughed them off. I've seen bands make a big deal out of mistakes and, frankly, peeps, most of us won't notice unless you don't call attention to your screw-ups.

I kept thinking to myself that this little performance deserved more of an audience and perhaps a larger venue. I won't complain, though, I'm glad they stopped by and I'm hoping they'll return. Maybe one day soon, they'll have ample opportunity to show off their talent to larger crowds.

Check out their video for "Open Wide" on YouTube.

The next night, myself and a few friends ventured our way out to the National to see the legendary Morrissey.

I've said this before, but I've never been a really big fan of his or of the Smiths, the band he used to front. This only means I had no idea what to expect and that I was blown away by what I saw and heard.

The guy is pushing 50 and he ran that stage like it was his, umm ... let's just say he showed everyone who was boss. Looking like a mixture between Dr. Troy McNamara (Nip/Tuck) and Robin Williams (in looks and in stage presence, respectively) he commanded the attention of every face in the crowd.

The stage was set up so the Moz had plenty of space to stalk around, whipping the mic cord to and fro. Picture a bullfighter with his cape ... with imaginary bulls coming at him from every direction.

I recognized more songs than I'd expected to, and when that insane riff from "How Soon Is Now?" started, nearly everyone in the sold out crowd of 1,500 took to their feet.

As big a ham as Morrissey was, his band wasn't leaving without making its presence felt. Drummer Matt Walker rocked an impressive set of drums that included an 18-wheeler-tire-sized bass and even a gong. Chris Bopst said recently, "The larger the drum set, the more likely the band is going blow." Sorry, Chris, but in at least this instance, that argument fails. (read the article here)

Moz sang the line 'But then you open your eyes and you see someone that you physically despise' from "Let Me Kiss You" at the precise moment he decided to remove shirt number two of three for the evening (if the timing was unintentional I'll eat my chucks). He'd already briefly left the stage long enough to change from a blue and white checkered print into the black dress shirt he was currently removing.

When he took off said black dress shirt, it was just too much for one excited fan to handle. This super-fan squeezed his way through a team of scowling security guards and chased Morrissey off-stage, dragging annoyed staff-members along with him. In line with the theme of the night (Morrissey is touring in support of his latest album, Years of Refusal), this eager-beaver wasn't giving up without a fight.

An unphased Morrissey reappeared in less than 5; donning another button-down ... this one pink.

Everything about the show was huge: the sound, the production, the enthusiasm, the egos.

All week I'd been a little skeptical as to whether he'd even show up (many shows had been cancelled prior to this one). Luckily he didn't let us down. Maybe he showed because it was Friday the 13th, maybe not. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I was there.

Morrissey on myspace | Mia Riddle on myspace

NOTE: Christy Sheppard is an established writer with publications like Richmond.com and was kind enough to share this article with us. We look forward to many more of Christy Sheppards writing contributions. Keep watching.


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