Review and photography by John Bentley

Weyes Blood (the working name of US singer, songwriter and musician Natalie Mering) released her fourth solo album ‘Titanic Rising’ to critical praise earlier this year. The lush album is superficially an easy listen, dominated by beautiful melodies and her languid golden voice, but underneath lie sober lyrics about the state of things and the human condition. Tonight at Manchester she plays to a sold-out Club Academy: back in 2007, she tells us, she first played in Manchester to just a handful of people.

Weyes Blood, Club Academy, Manchester 29 October 2019

Support act Ana Roxanne is a Los Angeles-based ambient musician: performing solo she delivers an ethereal set of vocal sounds and poetry backed by synth, electronics and bass guitar. The well-received set is deathly quiet, making the odd clank from the all-too-near bar sound most intrusive. It is good to see that occasionally audiences can still respect musicians by refraining from chat and actually listening. The ethereal set sounds rather like it ought to come from one of those This Mortal Coil albums that appeared on the 4AD label in the 1980s and 90s.

Ana Roxanne, Club Academy, Manchester 29 October 2019

Natalie Mering has served her apprenticeship in several bands as well as her output of solo material. Her work has drawn comparisons with retro singer-songwriters and her voice has been compared to Karen Carpenter, but she is most certainly a contemporary artist. Wearing an immaculate white suit, Mering takes the stage with her four-piece band and begins with new album opener ‘A Lot’s Going to Change’, a song about growing-up and coming to terms with life. Unsurprisingly there’s a large helping of material from ‘Titanic Rising’ in her set and the style and pace is maintained through the evening. She is backed by talented musicians whose instrumental parts are a joy to listen to. On ‘Something to Believe’ (a song that touches on dodgy information in the modern world) we get delicious droney retro organ and steel guitar. On ‘Movies’ there’s some great warbly synth playing and the song ends more up-tempo than most, resulting in Mering breaking into a bit of a dance.

Weyes Blood, Club Academy, Manchester 29 October 2019

On stage Mering sings, plays keyboards and occasional acoustic guitar, as on ‘Picture Me Better’, which she announces is a sad song about a fellow musician who took his own life (“If I could have seen you just once more / Tell you how much you’re adored”). Beside the quality of her songs, Mering’s effortless yet emotional velvety voice is certainly her trump card.

The encore features her version (dedicated to baby boomers in the audience) of Procul Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, a song so well-known and distinctive in its original form that it could be a risky cover choice. However, her keyboard player nails the iconic Bach-style organ part exactly and her voice is perfectly suited to the pace and feel of the song. She finishes her set alone on stage with her guitar performing ‘In The Beginning’, a life-passing song that lyrically takes us full circle back to opener ‘A Lot’s Going to Change’.

Weyes Blood, Club Academy, Manchester 29 October 2019

Overall it’s a delightfully sumptuous yet warm performance and her fans clearly adore her. Interestingly her audience seems to be made up of a wide age range from students to senior bus pass holders. Perhaps the performance could have been a little more varied, particularly in pace, but no doubt the talented Ms Mering will evolve her style over future albums.

Setlist: A Lot’s Gonna Change; Used to Be; Everyday; Seven Words; Something to Believe; Mirror Forever; Diary; Picture Me Better; Wild Time; Andromeda; Movies. Encore: Do You Need My Love; A Whiter Shade of Pale; In the Beginning.

Weyes Blood, Club Academy, Manchester 29 October 2019

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