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Mel Parsons - Gig Review: Mel Parsons @ Meow, Wellington - 28/05/2023

30 May 2023 // A review by Cathy Elizabeth
It’s been a good while since I’ve been to a gig at Meow, Wellington, so the first thing I do is weave my way through the growing crowd to get a good look at the size and layout of the stage. It’s nicely raised and fairly spacious, more spacious than I remembered actually! The perfect size for an intimate and connected performance, but still big enough for the healthy-sized crowd a Mel Parsons show can expect.

First to the stage is local folk singer-songwriter Victoria Ferry, who opens the show with beautiful simplicity and clarity. Her gorgeous voice fills the room with faded hues and complexity of emotion, the audience hanging on her every note. Her performance works magic to set the scene for the main act by creating a fully-focussed and attentive crowd.

Mel Parsons appears on the stage to loud cheers of excitement. She begins with a brief synopsis of how the night will play out; Tiny Days the single will feature in the middle of the set; the one ray of sunshine book-ended by melancholy indie-folk on either side. I just love her self-deprecating humour.

With that in mind, she announces she will start the show with Blame, the first line of which is “I blame your mother for every little thing”. Then quickly changes her mind. “Actually no, this is the Tiny Days tour, we're going to keep it positive! I'll play Blame second ....”. The first song is Down So Long.

It’s just Parsons and her guitar to begin, playing solo acoustic on her gorgeous Ibanez archtop jazz guitar. Her voice is nicely mixed, with the perfect amount of reverb to create her signature rich, lush sound. It’s Parsons' voice that carries everything.

She swaps to an acoustic guitar now and welcomes her band to the stage, introducing each band member by name and how many children they have. It’s the Tiny Days Tour, after all, a celebration of all things parenthood! Even the earlier Sunday evening start time is appropriate for the many parents in the room. We are kind of bonded together now, in our family way.

It’s a stripped-back intimate 3-piece for this tour, with long-time band mates, cousin Jed Parsons on drums and Aaron Stewart on bass. I’m loving the vibe, and Parsons is just so naturally funny. I’m envious of her ability to create such an instant rapport with her audience. The whole room is in love with her by the third song, which is Slow Burn – the title track from her 2022 album.

Having attended her shows before, I’m aware that a Mel Parsons show is a sit-down, watch-and-listen show. It’s no ‘background music while you catch up with your mates’ show. She would never stand for that; Parsons demands, and commands, full attention as she presents her body of work. And I love that about her too.

Next up is a song from the Drylands album, and she informs with faux bashfulness that this song won the NZCMA Best Country Song of the Year in 2016. Which is a bit of a bugbear for her, as she doesn't consider herself a country artist. But as she points out, Alberta Sun has all the hallmarks of a country track, including dry dusty roads and a pick-up truck.

Now, I don’t know about anyone else, and I certainly do not wish to offend, but it’s not just the lyrical content that feels country to me. It’s the instrumentation too; the guitar tones, the soft doofy beats and brushes, the warm deep bass. It’s the offbeat rhythms and dusty feel. I mean, it’s not your full traditional “country” as such, but I’m definitely getting alt-country vibes, at least. Mel Parsons’ music has a definite flavour; it’s rich, warm, smooth, and ambient. But the swagger is just impossible to ignore. Even in the vocal tones. Please don’t be mad at me.

Now we have a new song, which is very exciting, and we are instructed to go wild at its conclusion. 5432 is a beautiful, floaty, and ethereal tune, with a catchy chorus we can all sing along to. And being brand new and, as yet, unrecorded, it feels like a pretty special treat.

It’s time now for Tiny Days, the feature song of the night. But not before being rudely interrupted by a Government Emergency Test coming through on everyone’s phones! I am so glad this happened during the break between songs and not during the performance. Much hilarity ensues as second and third waves of notifications come through to the poor folks who are, seemingly, going to receive their warnings too late.

Then, while Parsons retunes her guitar, we are entertained by Jed, who plays us his children's song Who's That Person in the Mirror which may someday be released under the moniker of Jeff Parsnips.

Finally, we get to enjoy Tiny Days; an ode to the blessings, trials, and tribulations of parenthood. It is poignant and lovely, and the crowd is mesmerised. I as drift away I find myself fixated by Mel’s fingers and the quirky way in which they stretch and snap to the strings for each chord change.

Jed swaps onto the guitar for Don’t Wait from the Drylands album. With no drums now, we have two guitars and a beautiful rich blend of harmonies from all three performers, we are feeling really welcome here in Mel's presence. We are treated to Come Over Lover and Just Cause’ You Don’t Want Me, both from the Glass Heart album.

Time dictates that the show is now drawing to a close, and Parsons gives the audience a couple of options for the next song. Far Away is enthusiastically chosen over Failure. Mel insists that she is a pretty happy person really, in her day-to-day life. Even though you may not think so by looking at the melancholy song titles!

The whole room enjoys Far Away immensely, with much foot stomping and clapping, and the crowd isn't going anywhere without an encore. Parsons’ voice is supremely lovely on Failure from Slow Burn. It’s a beautiful song, and the crowd is very happy as the show closes out with I Got the Lonely.

I love how this song finishes up like a train pulling into the station; complete with a long, slow, and tired toot of the horn. We all disembark feeling like we have been on a beautiful scenic journey along with friends and family. Wellington was the last stop on the tour, after Auckland and Christchurch, and you can feel the sense of completion and satisfaction from all involved. Just lovely.


Photo Credit: Taiga Semori - Auckland 19 May 2023
View the full gallery here

Christchurch photos here

 

About Mel Parsons

Well recognised as one of New Zealand’s established songwriting stars, indie-folk singer songwriter Mel Parsons’ star is on the rise. Following the success of both her debut album Over My Shoulder in 2009, and sophomore offering Red Grey Blue in 2011, Parsons released her third full length record Drylands in 2015.

The Kiwi singer/songwriter and two time NZ Music Award (VNZMA) finalist for Folk Album of the Year, has released the first single from Drylands – the gutsy & rhythmic audience favourite originally performed with Fly My Pretties, Far Away. With a dynamite live show, solo or with her band, Parsons is an engaging performer with a natural emotive voice that allows the listener to become part of the story.

With home as a hotel room and a suitcase, Parsons has built up her fan base the old fashioned way – winning over audiences on the live circuit. The only New Zealand artist invited to showcase at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, USA in 2014 & 2015, Parsons has also had recent tours in Australia, UK, Ireland, and Germany. She is also a cast member of Kiwi musical collective Fly My Pretties, with tours and festival performances including the prestigious Byron Bay Bluesfest at Easter 2015.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Mel Parsons

Releases

Sabotage
Year: 2024
Type: Album
Slow Burn
Year: 2022
Type: Album
Drylands
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Red Grey Blue
Year: 2011
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Over My Shoulder
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape

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