Alice Merton at Club Academy, Manchester
Written by: Heather McAleavy
It’s very rare for an artist’s very first single to reach number 1 and become an international hit, but for singer-songwriter Alice Merton, that was only expected. ‘No Roots’ exploded onto the waves in December 2016 and has since been followed up with her debut album Mint earlier this year. Tonight the nomadic star brought catalogue of both old and new pop bangers to Manchester for the second time ever, and for some it was like she never left…
Support came from Ireland’s own multi-instrumentalist Sion Hill (Nathan Johnston). He performed a stripped-back set just on guitar, but still managed to do his layered indie tracks justice. His twanged chords and guitar slaps made this more than just a plain acoustic set as he intertwined their off-beat, swung rhythms with his unique soulful voice. As an experienced performer, interacting with the 2,300-capacity room came easily to Hill as he joked with the crowd throughout and even persuaded them to join in with tracks that begged for crowd vocals such as ‘Go On and Get It For Me’ and ‘Honey’. Slow, heartfelt tune ‘Breakfast In Amsterdam’ was a particular highlight as it was dedicated to his friends back home when he moved to Berlin. It tells the tale of how he bumped into an old friend he’d not seen in a while in Amsterdam airport having barely left Ireland and they caught up in duty-free before parting ways. His muse was even in the crowd tonight and made the whole experience so real for the rest of us it almost felt intrusive.
As 9pm approached, tension was rising in the now full room; the audience made up of everyone from teen girls to middle aged men. As the opening riff to ‘Learn To Live’ started, the eager crowd jumped to alert and that’s how they stayed for the next hour and a half. Merton swept onto stage wearing a sheer turquoise shawl with Mint printed on the back, beaming as she caught individuals’ eyes.
Every track – no matter the tempo – felt anthemic with prominent and intricate drum beats, electronic guitar solos and atmospheric synth chords. From bass-heavy funk hit ‘Trouble In Paradise’ and electro bop ‘Funny Business’ to the only slow ballad on the new record ‘Honeymoon Heartbreak’, the audience were on board with every mood conveyed, whether they were dancing like they were in Factory or welling up. ‘2 Kids’ in particular caught them off guard as she dedicated it to her manager Paul Grauwinkel who she met at university, giving an emotive speech about how she wouldn’t be on this stage without him.
Of course, ‘No Roots’ was the most impactful song of the night. Stating how she’d moved 13 times throughout her life and didn’t miss places, just people, it was clear this song not only meant a lot to her due to the success it brought, but also it’s original meaning regarding her upbringing on the road. Together, the audience shouted and warbled the choruses while not keeping their own feet on the ground for long than a second. When it came to the end of encore track ‘Why So Serious’, everyone was reluctant to leave and for the night to come to an end.
Tickets to her show at London Scala are on sale now!alice merton / review