The pitfall of being a YouTube sensation known for your rearrangements and remixes of popular songs is that – even when those remixes get millions of views and are as well-sung and as well-performed as singer Megan Davies’ are – it’s hard to translate that into selling your music or performing it live.
Megan Davies, the Nashville-transplanted Harrisburg-native singer who has nearly 20 million-view cover-song videos on YouTube, showed that Friday with her concert in the Blast Furnace Room at ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem.
In a 13-song, hour-long set before an audience of 40 or so, Davies showed a lovely, delicate voice and proficient guitar playing that made for a nice evening of music.
But her original songs – which made up most of the set – predictably didn’t measure up to the songs she covers online. And, without studio manipulation, neither did the covers she replicated in her set.
That doesn’t mean Davies’ music isn’t good. The opening “Walk Away” – performed, as most were, on acoustic guitar with a backing guitarist/keyboardist and an occasional drum pedal – was, indeed, good.
The second song, “Blind Fools,” which was among all five of the songs on her new EP, “Bad Poetry,” that Davie did, was even better, with its frail falsetto and mid-song rapped segment.
It was easy to see influences in several of the original songs. “Black and White” from the EP had hints of Tracy Chapman, as did the EP’s title track, which occasionally sounded like Chapman’s “Fast Car.” The unrecorded “Doesn’t Matter” had hints of Suzanne Vega.
And the mid-song rap bridges of “You’re Not Invited to the Party” and the song she said was her favorite, “Only Us,” were reminiscent of another under-appreciated Nashville transplant, Mat Kearney.
A couple of covers were interesting. Davies did Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me” as bluegrass, and folk singer John Craigie’s “28,” about musicians such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, who all died at 27, was an effective song for Davies, who is 27.
Davies performed three of her familiar YouTube mashups, but they fell short of the online versions.
As her third song, she brought her sister Jaclyn – who she said drove in from Penn State — for her 2015 take on Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” and Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” that’s approaching 54 million views.
And her encore brought opening act Keelan Donovan back to stage for their 10 million-view take on Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness,” then her sister again for a mashup of Rihanna and Drake songs.
But if Davies is going to become an artist apart from her covers, she would do well to pursue the sound and vibe of the song that closed her main set – the brand new “Midnight.” A more jaunty song about a carefree excursion, it did far more to distinguish her as a distinctive artist.
Donovan’s six-song, set of nearly 30 minutes was interesting singer-songwriter fare.
His one cover, a slower take on the Cyndi Lauper hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” was far closer to the way the song’s author, late Philadelphia new-waver, Robert Hazard, did it – and to good effect.
Also good were his single “Touch and Go” – which peaked at No. 36 on Billboard last week – and Donovan wisely wailed on it, knowing it was the song to emphasize.
But also very good was his closing “Timmy’s Song (When I’m Gone),” a gentle, finger-picked reflection on a late friend.