Sometimes all you need for a musician to win you over is the element of surprise. Meg Mac’s debut New Zealand gig at The Tuning Fork may not have been a surprise for the number of adoring fans who came out, but I was admittedly not totally familiar with her body of work when I was offered the opportunity. By the end of the night, the Sydney born singer-songwriter Megan Sullivan McInerney had shown me exactly what kind of quality music I had been missing out on.
NZ composer who is presently based in Perth, Eden Mulholland kicked off the night with heartwarming, stripped back versions of some fresh material, supported by bassist and backing vocalist Mike Hall. While his yelpy inflections and vocal intensity is as strong as it was in his Motorcade days, I was impressed with Mulholland’s willingness to breach the lower end of his range on cuts like self-proclaimed love song My Ambulance. Hall contributed many tasteful harmonies and subtle bass lines to the occasion... understated yet unequivocally vital.
Mulholland also made sure to both plug and play upcoming single How Am I Lonely, due on May 3rd, to close a solid opening set.
Then, through dim lights and a post-Patti Smith silence as the intermission ended, the band appeared and began slowly building hype. Meg Mac, sauntering on stage to the cheers of mildly drunk fans, opens the set with Ride It, raspy vocals punching through the suspense. It’s here that I was instantly captivated by Mac’s soulful and blues-tinged pop sound. While most of the setlist was stylistically consistent, there was enough variation - whether it be the country twang in I’m Not Coming Back or the Sam Smith-esque piano balladry in Roll Up Your Sleeves - to ensure Mac was never artistically one-dimensional.
What Mac lacked in stage banter, she more than made up for in stage presence, pacing like a preacher delivering a sermon. Each burst of emotion was juxtaposed by the faintest "Thank you" and small smile sneaking through moments. It helps that her backing band delivered just as much enthusiasm on stage. Mac joked about how fans ask her about keyboardist Josiah for his endlessly jovial demeanour, but there was truth in it; at any given point you could look left and see him wildly dancing or clapping to the rhythm, without ever missing a beat. It was the perfect kind of dichotomy for the small venue, promising intimacy and aloofness in equal measure.
Mac and co.’s mix felt perfectly balanced, allowing each instrument to occupy its space without a power struggle. Even the drums and synth basses, tuned to the typical pop boom, were clear enough to highlight each rolling tom to fill and heart-rattling melody. Nothing felt out of place, nary a mistake to be heard.
I usually only discuss the technical end of the spectrum when it comes to finding faults, trying to balance out the gushing praise I have for the music. So here’s some more gushing praise instead, for how Mac and co.’s mix felt perfectly balanced, allowing each instrument to occupy its space without a power struggle. Even the drums and synth basses, tuned to the typical pop boom, were clear enough to highlight each rolling tom to fill and heart-rattling melody. Nothing felt out of place, nary a mistake to be heard. Hyperbole like “flawless” needs a commitment from the author to truly be credible, so let the records show I’m committing fully to my belief that Meg Mac had a flawless sound this night.
There are so many small moments I wish I could discuss - my own emotional epiphany during Grandma’s Hands, or the consistently jaw-dropping vocal harmonies, or watching the crowd dance to empowering anthem and tour namesake Give Me My Name Back. All of which to say, this was honestly one of the best gigs I've ever had the chance to witness. The audience seemed to agree, with their demand for an encore being more deafening than the music. Mac eventually obliged with a soulful yet still psychedelic rendition of Tame Impala’s Let It Happen, before finally proclaiming "Hopefully I can come back one day."