Show Review: Marié Digby with Alpha Rev at The Hotel Utah, 12/9/09

by Raffi Youssoufian on December 11, 2009

Marie captured in scattered blacks and whites

Marie captured in scattered blacks and whites

The Hotel Utah may very well have been an early stop on a train just beginning its journey.  One might have considered Marié Digby’s cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” in 2007, which is now up to almost fifteen million views on YouTube, a sort of one destination train.  Yes I did say fifteen million.  A gold record is five hundred thousand units sold, and platinum is one million.  Granted these were one time views and not purchases, but if I owned a record label, those are numbers I simply could not ignore.  Since 2007, Marié Digby has been busy releasing two albums, one in Japanese, to some fanfare.  While her new record, Breathing Underwater might eventually garner up enough interest to fill up a train station, it was enough to completely stuff a venue up so much so, that you could not even get into the room she was performing in.

The opener Alpha Rev, with whom Marié had been with for the past twelve days on a cross country tour, wasn’t anything I haven’t seen before, or heard on adult alternative radio.  Anyone who’s enjoyed a song from Maroon 5 to Wilco just might be all over some of their light piano and guitar based rock/pop tunes.   The infusion of violin was a nice touch that somehow added a little bit of warmth to a very cold night.

Watching from the steps that lead into the room, I could see just a piano, a keyboard, and two guitars.  This wasn’t a surprise, but if anyone had come expecting to hear the very produced and pop sound of the record they were not going to be satisfied in the least.  Coming out to voracious cheers, Marié was talkative and sweet,  with the persona of  the girl next door that every boy would have a crush on and every girl would want to be friends with.  Welcoming the crowd she started into her set with “a very solid radio ready rhythm guitar piano pop number” from her new record, “Daybreak.”  By the second song she already had the audience engrossed as you could hear them singing along to “Stupid For You.”  She seemed very comfortable on stage, whether on guitar, or on piano for her more intimate songs, well I would only say intimate while performed live, like “Feel,” or the happy go lucky “Christmas” song with a jovial piano riff named “Bring Me Love.”

Getting more comfortable, she joked and told stories, including how she attended U.C. Berkeley for one year, and how much she loved San Francisco (her first time playing the city).  She was very open about what each song was about, which I’m always in favor of, because it really helps the artist connect with the crowd.  None of the music was very original, it didn’t tread any new ground.  Michelle Branch came to mind a few times.  It fit perfectly into the standards that have been set the past few years by radio and TV.  But while hearing these songs for the first time I was impressed by their sheer construction.  I’m not entirely sure if Marié wrote or co-wrote the music, but I could hear most of the songs (the live versions anyway) all on the radio.  That is a feat not to be modest about.  Writing a pop song that gets people’s attention is a difficult thing to do.  Most records have maybe two songs at most that are radio friendly, and each of the songs stood on its own, with a fair amount of real emotion from Marié in both the performance and in the lyrics.  I really feel like you get a better sense of who she is as a person live than you do on the record, which in some ways leans itself to exposure on multiple formats like R&B and the pop/dance stations.

You have to wonder as Marié’s train builds steam, will her notoriety come as a singer/songwriter, or as a pop seamstress.  She definitely has charm and stunning good looks on her side.  But her crowd pleasing two-song encore probably answered the question in a microcosm.  It will probably be some combination of both.   She played a solemn piano number about her decision to leave college and pursue music, and then what got her there in the first place, Rihanna’s “Umbrella.”

The best possible setlist I could come up with on my own is as follows:

  1. Daybreak
  2. Stupid For You
  3. Breathe Underwater
  4. Sanctuary (?) (She noted this song is not on any album)
  5. Feel
  6. Love With a Stranger
  7. Bring Me Love
  8. Avalanche
  9. Say It Again

Encore

  1. Beauty In Walking Away (?)
  2. Umbrella

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