Somewhere in the middle of the show, before she started her acoustic songs, Moriah Formica, the Shaker High School junior who was recently knocked off NBC’s "The Voice" show, told the crowd Sunday night at Jupiter Hall that she was a “true rocker, aggressive” and “in your face.”
But it wasn’t until toward the end of her one-hour show that she demonstrated this declaration, showed us that it was the heavier stuff, the metal tunes, that got her going the most.
She spent the first portion of the night playing loud rock with her five-piece band behind her. She shouted through these songs, barely audible over the guitars, keys and drums. Songs like the opening cover “Paris,” and “Save Me,” required her to belt it out at full volume. These were fine, but they didn’t showcase her real talent.
About one-third of the way through the set, just in the nick of time, the band left Formica alone on stage for a few acoustic tunes. After all, this is what people came to hear. She could have strummed and sang anything and the crowd would have been pleased.
She started with an original, “No Regrets,” which she said could be applied to her experience on "The Voice": an experience that changed her life, but now it was time to move on. She can carry her own tune with the guitar without effort, her chords and fills fluent while she focused on vocals. She still over-sang the tunes, not yet creating a rise and fall within the song, but keeping the song teetering at its height the entire time. She told us that these tunes would display her soft side, but it only displayed her same aggressive side without the volume of the band.
Her best tune of the night was “Here’s My Heart,” a song she wrote in 10th grade about a crush on a boy who didn’t feel the same toward her. She is a skilled soloist and was great here as an unabashed, authentic teenager. This one struck a chord with the crowd.
She was fantastic on her Heart cover “Crazy on You,” which brought her success on the TV show. Her strong voice came through well in this tune. The same happened for the night’s final tune, “Barricuda.” She surprised us with some lead guitar on this one. Again, these tunes show the power and maturity of her voice and her instincts for managing a complex tune.
But the truth is, she is a rocker, and she was best by far during the hardcore “Bring it On.” This heated up the small hall with its rumbling bass and power chords, Formica holding it together while shouting the lines. It seemed at home on these tunes. The Heart-like tunes win over the audiences, and has brought her success, but it was the heavier, essentially metal tunes that had her gasping for air afterwards while she talked to the audience.
The band functioned a level or two below Formica, though that may be a matter of time before they catch up. The group seemed to be role-playing, taking their parts a bit too seriously, concerned a lot about themselves, less about supporting Formica. In contrast, Formica stayed within the song, and focused on delivering the lines.
It needs to be said that all her band members were young men except a back-up singer. Can she not find one woman to play an instrument in her band? Did she make an effort?
It’s certainly encouraging to see a young, talented — local — woman performer committed to heavy rock. This is a rare gem. But however talented she proves to be going forward, as performer, singer or songwriter, she faces a tough market ahead. Fortunately, she has plenty on her side to start —– TV exposure, talent and youth.