01 May 2011

Megan Washington at The Forum - concert review

There are some musicians I wish I'd known about before they hit the big time. And others I heard about because they'd hit the big time. Megan Washington fits into both of these categories. I've loved her music since early last year and her debut album I Believe You Liar has been on constant rotation. She was my favourite thing about last year's ARIAs. I'd booked a ticket to see her last year but I missed the show due to illness. So I was excited to see her touring again and snapped up a ticket on the day of release.
I saw her live on Friday night and I have to say, I was disappointed. Maybe my expectations were too high. But I felt there was something lacking.

She can sing so well. Her voice is pretty amazing. And she's written great, danceable songs (my favourites at the concert were Sunday Best, Rich Kids and Cement) and also some slower songs (I love Underground and it was so moving on Friday) and also songs about 'shame and pity' - her words.

The show was packed with pretty young things, in cool clothes sourced from the op-shop, who looked like Frankie and Yen readers, after alternative intelligent musical role models compared to the offerings of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry (I also fit most of this profile!). Most of the girls and guys around me looked like they enjoyed the show - singing and dancing their big Australian music loving hearts out. I sang along too. But I still left the concert underwhelmed.
Megan Washington has a sexy stage presence. Her dress was amazing. She bared milky skin on her arms and shoulders, sultry eyes, and a short dress that at times would have aroused the boys and girls in the room. She moves on stage like she's having sex. Standing at the keyboard, her legs writhe, her shoulders are languid. I was envious of her body. She's beautiful.
But a sexy stage presence is all she has. She lacks charisma. I love the banter musicians make between songs. Megan Washington told stories - one about a man in the US who carried a sword, another about how she tried not to swear at an all ages gig, but they weren't that funny or heartfelt and a times were a bit nervously delivered. The best bit was when she said she was told Lisa Mitchell was prettier than her at a show she played on her birthday in Tarthra, and her drummer asked if she had a dollar.

At times she came across precocious - playfully mocking a guy who asked her to play Sunday Best midway through the set - she replied along the lines of 'do you really expect me to play that now?  Have you ever been to a gig? Do you understand the natural progression of a gig?'. And someone asked her to tell a joke - fair enough she is a singer - but her reply was 'the comedy festival is over', said in quite a sarcastic way.
 
She admitted she was drunk. Maybe that explains these comebacks. While she wasn't hideously messy-drunk, I thought the drunkeness hampered the show. I heard some guys after the show say she'd put heaps of swearing into songs where originally they didn't feature swearing. A lot of the time she sort of looked tired and somewhat bored - she flopped her arms over the keyboard or hung doubled over nearly touching the ground - I wondered if she was going to fall over, or was she just playing with passion?

I spoke with some people while walking out of the show after it'd finished. They said they were disappointed too - they thought she just played without feeling. They found her pretentious. And didn't think she did much to get the crowd going. I told friends of mine I was sad to be disappointed by her concert. 'She has no charisma! Seen her at Falls and it was a let down. Very uninteresting', J said. Another friend said 'I was  disappointed to find that she was not particularly engaging at Falls'. And lastly, C said ' I agree. also disappointed when I saw her at Falls :( great voice though! Also I really want to like her more and I remember thinking/hoping she'd have been better in a more intimate setting before she'd hit the big time...'
 
I have struggled with writing this. I hope to only write good reviews here. But I can't be won over by every band I see, and I want to be honest. I wish I had seen Megan Washington before she hit the big time too. While she thanked the crowd for supporting her, and her music really sounded good, I don't think she gave enough of herself to us, or even was truly respectful. It's surprising given that she gives a lot of herself to her Facebook fans. I read this in depth interview on The Vine. She says 'I don't feel like being a musician is any different than my personal self. I feel like that's evident in my really close dialogue I have with everybody on Facebook and stuff. I want to be accountable'.

I want to try to change my mind about her. She's worked so hard for years at her craft. She's intelligent and quirky and a great writer. I love her music. So I am wondering why her onstage presence has disappointed me so much when I don't know her personally? I want to like her. I really do.

15 comments:

  1. While disappointing for fans who hand over their hard earned for a less and wonderful experience, I can't help but winder what's going on in someone's life when they perform that way, singer or otherwise. I went to Robbie Williams concert a few years back and enjoyed it overall despite his glassy eyes and disjointed banter at times think poor guy is about to hit the ground or hopefully rehab. He did, the latter, soon after luckily. It must be a hard life, despite our high and reasonable expectations for a good live show, but in the end we are all human and we can hope things improve... I mean really to admit being drunk on stage is either attention seeking or a sad admission of something else. I've never heard her sing, other than on slicks and specks, but I can see that with amazing gifts would also come huge highs and lows. Hopefully you get another chance to see her again with a more positive experience.

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  2. I'm really disappointed to hear she was so underwhelming. I've been looking forward to her Groovin The Moo set for quite a while.

    She's on at 3 in the afternoon, so hopefully no beer for her!

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  3. I always question the professionalism of a performer if they're drinking right before they get on state. I know that's not an atypical behavior in any way for musicians, but interestingly enough it's one of the few industries where it's not frowned on. Actors showing up on stage or set when drunk tends to not go over well and there's a reason most professions frown upon it. I wonder if it would've been better if she hadn't been drinking?

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  4. Carly, thanks for writing the good and the not-so-good reviews - we all need to hear the "not-so-good" sometimes, even Megan Washington. I saw that she read your review, good on you for putting yourself and your writing out there.

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  5. She was drunk?! Just, Blergh. I am not really a Megan Washington fan, I have found this a bit fascinating because she does have a nice voice and is the style of music I usually enjoy...but something has always just been missing for me. I am not surprised to hear about the lack of charisma in the live performance, perhaps that is what was lacking for me the whole time... I am sorry that you didn't get to go out to a kick-ass gig, though! x

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  6. hi carly - my sister follows your blog so i sometimes read it as it's on her blogroll.

    i was at the concert on friday night too and i have to say i pretty much agree with you, as disappointed as i am to say it. i love megan's music, but she lacks presence on stage and the ability to interact with the audience. maybe i am judging rather harshly having seen imogen heap live only 2 weeks ago. the level on which immi interacts with her fans is AMAZING (if you don't know her, you should definitely check her out. she auditions fans on youtube to perform live with her, lets her fans vote for what songs they'd like to hear, shares stories behind the meanings of her songs, and is even recording an album now that is cowritten by her fans - you can send in sound bytes that she uses and words for her to use as inspiration. lifeline is the first song from the album. plus for a lot of her songs she records sound loops live on stage and gradually layers them up, before actually launching into the song itself - i would highly recommend her next time she's in town.)

    anyways back to the point - i am sad to say i honestly found megan a bit pretentious in the way she talked. her story about not swearing at an all ages gig (don't say f**k, don't say f**k x10) was frankly boring, especially for a crowd of over 18s. does she honestly think the idea of swearing when you really shouldn't will get that much of a laugh out of a crowd of adults who have probably all been there before. aside from that i think it's a bit of a shame that a songwriter as talented as her would have such a limited vocabulary in conversation that she has to actively try not to swear in front of people. i thought the story about the guy in america wasn't that funny either.

    and i actually thought it was almost mean when she chided the person who yelled out a song request. i personally dislike it when people do that but being like "do you honestly expect me to do that, what the f**k, is this your first gig?" etc etc was really unnecessary and maybe it was the first music concert he'd been to! if so, she probably lost a fan.

    i was also not impressed by her celebrating her own drunkeness and the drunkeness of the crowd (i don't like to drink to much at events like that because i payed good money for my ticket, so i want to remember the show and i have no qualms over singing along to a really good song even if i'm not intoxicated hehe)

    i think i was actually more disappointed not by the show itself, but by the fact that i like her music so much but her onstage presence just didn't compare. guess there's always next time, but i'm not too sure i'd be shelling out 30 bucks for more of the same.

    anna :)

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  7. I don't even know who Megan Washington is, but I just wanted to say this is a really well-written review. It's so nice to see someone able to articulate WHY they didn't like something, rather than just saying it sucks, as so many reviewers do these days. You're a star, Carly!

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  8. i'm disappointed to read this. She smacked me over the head last year and I've loved her from the first moment. I don't usually fall so hard so easily these days. I've longed to see her and given the chance I still will. She's a huge talent.

    I'm all for artists getting primed with a few drinks before a show but I never think drunk works.

    I also wonder if she's gotten huge too fast, too young. She's still so very young and there's real maturity in her writing, but perhaps she's not coping with the enormity of it all so far. We've seen that happen before. Let's hope she figures out stuff and injects some of that charisma in her music and writing into her performance.

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  9. also, i question the way she is on fb as being in great communication with fans. I pretty much unfollowed her on both fb and twitter because I was getting nothing from it. The odd photo, some random flippant remark here or there about nothing in particular; I've seen artists do it better.

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  10. That sort of environment can be challenging if you're more at home making music than engaging with an audience. Then again, we tend to expect our artist to be accessible and engaging all of the time, so I guess it's inevitable that some people won't be up to the challenge or that they'll slip every now and then.

    It's a shame that you came away from the concert so unsatisfied, though.

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  11. I like Megan Washington, but like Sia better. Much more catchy.
    Thanks for sharing your review.
    If you don't mind me saying so, you make some comments about having a "disability".
    You are one very "able" girl, and do more than most without chronic illness. You rock
    Cilla (sassydrcil) - you saw me at Fraus!

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  12. I was at the all ages show on Thursday and the crowd at times was rude, some were demanding songs like spoilt brats used to getting things and getting them NOW, or just getting drunk and trying to pick up without even caring that some amazing singing was going on just a few feet away from them. She did say the band had just learnt the songs so maybe they haven't been together all that long and that may have been distracting for her.
    But seriously, she is one awesome talent and I think people expect so much more these days; an artist has to virtually draw blood, bare their souls, be a comedian cum storytelling musician but for $30 can you really complain when the singing is A grade?
    Maybe she didn't feel connected to her audience, maybe she had some personal shit going on, but my God, the girl can sing.
    There is no other talent out there as creative and whose lyrics are poured out of their soul in such a poetic manner.
    We can only hope she continues to provide us with her rare quality of magic and gives us an opportunity to see new talent like Deep Sea Arcade and Lissie.

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  13. Well written review Carly, I enjoyed reading it. I can learn a lot from you!!

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  14. I felt exactly the same way about the Brisbane show two nights ago she seems so depressed and stuff and like she didn't want to be there I feel bad. I met her after woods she was just so drunk. And yea it's like she's so worn out from touring cause she tours non stop. She is intelligent and wonderful music wise but I think she needs to take a big rest and just write music.

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  15. Carly, I do agree you blog was very well written, BUT I need to stand up for Megan here. I'm a huge fan and I loved her gig. I went Thursday and Friday nights and flew up to Sydney to see her again. I think she does have charisma and yes she's definatley sexy on stage. I love her jokes... I think they're hilarious!! And with her drinking, go for it washo. All musicians drink before and while on stage. And Megan gets nervous so a bit of whiskey calms the nerves! All agree that she is still young and learning as she goes. I love that she's herself and doesn't try to fit in with the whole famous image. I've met her twice and I think she's really good with her fans. She doesnt mind photos and even hugs! Megan rules! xo

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