The winsome Meredith Sheldon opened for Johnny Marr at the 9:30 Club once again earlier this week.
Ms. Sheldon came through with Marr also in April 2013, but then she was performing in a loose band called Alamar with Johnny’s son Nile Marr. A friend compared the sound of the two together to The Sundays.
This time, Sheldon performed alone with her guitar, and she was as dreamy as that comparison would suggest, but her sound definitely smacked of a jangle pop found in other Massachussetts singer-songwriters like Tanya Donnelly and Juliana Hatfield.
Sheldon opened with “Metal Hand,” a song about the strength required to heal. From the start of her set, she had a good rapport with the audience, and it reflected in her easy, comfortable playing. In one segment of her first song, she thumps lightly on the guitar instead of strumming it, creating a unique bridge and providing ample room for her airy voice to fill the space.
The 9:30 Club on Sunday began to get pretty full (if not quite sold out), as Sheldon’s set progressed, and she captivated the audience, which seemed to appreciate her laidback style, a pleasant counterpoint to Marr’s (also welcome) frenetic rock and roll.
Not to say Sheldon is all peace and quiet. Her second song “Reverie,” for example, has a fast charging guitar riff in the middle, where she sings of confronting fears.
Once you get comfortable with Sheldon’s set, she’s not afraid to throw in a surprise, as she did toward the end with a cover of The Replacements’ “Answering Machine.” Thematically, however, it’s a great selection as a song about being alone and trying to reach out to someone, a recurring idea in the background of Sheldon’s music.
She’s warm and approachable, and her music shows some resiliency while being vulnerable. You can see why Johnny Marr likes her, and she even sings some backing vocals on his new album, Playland. (Sheldon doesn’t have a full-length LP out herself, although she is offering a few EPs for sale on this tour.)
The tour has only just begun, as the 9:30 Club was its first date. Sheldon continues to open for Marr throughout November and December, as they wind their way across the country to California. Catch the Playland tour this weekend in Ashbury, NJ, on Nov. 14 or Brooklyn on Nov. 15. And come early for Ms. Sheldon!