Erstwhile 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman Natalie Merchant continues her highly successful solo career with LIVE IN CONCERT, a show that was recorded at New York's Neil Simon Theater. The set opens, somewhat appropriately, with one of the songs that got Merchant's solo career off to a blazing start, "Wonder." As she usually does in live performance, Merchant plays with the lyrical phrasing of the song to add unexpected melisma and daring tonal gambits.
Merchant lends the dark and ephemeral "San Andreas Fault" a lightly sultry quality not found on the studio version. Other familiar favorites include "Beloved Wife," "Carnival," and "Ophelia." Merchant revisits the Maniacs' catalog only once, for a rousing take on "Gun Shy." Two unexpected covers spice the middle of the set: a haunting and powerful reading of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," and a beautiful take on Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush." Merchant and her prodigiously talented backing band manage to breathe new life into the songs, which in lesser hands might come off as weak copies of the revered originals.