Natalie Merchant Live In Concert is her first live album featuring the finest moments from an acclaimed four-night stand at the Neil Simon Theater in New York City. This array of her handpicked favorites, cherished covers and best hits performed live make this an essential album for all Merchant fans.
With just a pair of CDs--Tigerlily
--in her solo-career arsenal, Natalie Merchant isn't an artist you'd expect to release a live album. Perhaps Merchant is fond of playing live, which shows throughout these 11 tracks despite her relaxed, unflappable vocal delivery. The former 10,000 Maniacs
frontwoman leads an amped "Wonder" and then coos into "San Andreas Fault"; the latter is expansive and dramatic, a direction Merchant is exploring that's alternately off-putting and charming. Merchant's version of David Bowie
's "Space Oddity" is even more philosophical and meditative. Add to that a languid take on Neil Young
's "After the Gold Rush" and you have a full-scale portrait of Merchant's mindset. The ever-somber music is limited in its emotional scope, but there are few performers in mainstream pop who excel more in that range. --Andrew Bartlett