Alice Merton sets her roots in August Hall for Mint

Alice Merton/Courtesy

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Alice Merton took the stage last week at August Hall in support of her new album Mint, which is dropping Jan. 18. At her first headlining show in San Francisco, the young singer brought waves of powerhouse vocals to the intimate crowd.

Sporting a trendy, tropical-print pantsuit, Merton opened her show with “Hit the Ground Running.” This song was filled with soft, sweeping notes to match the venue’s dizzying pink lights shining on the crowd.

The band formed during the college years of its members, who were students in Germany at the time. Still together and touring, the relationships among them were shown onstage through their playful interactions and ease of performing together.

Merton took the time to explain the personal meaning of each song before she performed it, and for “Holes,” she explained that it told the story of her battle with record labels before starting her own. Every label had told her she “wasn’t what they were looking for,” and this unreleased song spoke to the hole in her heart from the rejection she faced.

What Merton proved with “Holes” is that even sad songs can be successfully upbeat with the right attitude and instrumentals. Another thing her band proved is that you don’t need to be playing a bass to execute amazing bass lines. Throughout most of the concert, to the confusion of many in the audience, the deep groove was felt, even though there was no bassist onstage. Guitarist Regi Drake played the part of both bassist and guitarist, bringing the high and low notes to the table in a fusion of sound.

Comparable to Lorde or Marina and the Diamonds, Merton held a steady vibrato in her dancey tunes that brought drama to the pop-rock sound. Her song “Jealousy” showed this drama as the mood slowed down. The emotion of the swaying rhythm was conveyed in low notes before building into her usual upbeat tempo.

One of the songs on her new LP, Merton said from the stage, is about a fight she had with her producer. Hence its name, “Trouble In Paradise.” While the band performed the song, the concertgoers had no trouble dancing as ridiculously as they pleased; this spectacle spoke for the mood of the audience members in attendance, who were generally having a good time being themselves in the comfortable atmosphere Merton created.

Even though good times were had by the crowd, they could be heard a little too loudly during the quieter songs. While Merton was singing some slower, more emotional lyrics, all you could hear from the edge of the room was the laughing and conversation taking place elsewhere around the venue. This detracted from the mood Merton was trying to create and took some members of the audience out of the concert experience.

With many of her songs, the vocalist held great timing with her breaths, maintaining her classic rock melody and hitting strikingly high notes with great power. “Lash Out” was arguably better live than recorded — the rawness of her voice could be heard so much more clearly in person, highlighting the song’s energy. The ‘80s pop vibes were real.

Merton performed many songs off the unreleased album, one being “I Don’t Hold A Grudge.” On the subject, Merton said, “I don’t really hold a grudge… but I do sometimes.” The groovy air of the song fit her head-bopping sound and only got the crowd more excited for the upcoming album.

“No Roots,” her biggest hit yet with more than 117 million plays on Spotify, details her disorientation with where she comes from and how her identity defines her. The music flowed through her expressive hand motions and dance moves across the stage.

Alice Merton may be young, but she definitely knows how to engage with an audience and have a great time all the while.

Skylar De Paul covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.