Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Song: Headphones
Artist: Matt Nathanson

As you probably already know, Matt Nathanson has released a new single as a little teaser of his upcoming album.  Lucky for us, he has also been playing the new song while out on his summer tour.  I have to say, was a little thrown the first time I listened to "Headphones".  Initially, I thought it was a huge departure from what I expected to hear, but now that I've listened to it a few (hundred) more times, I've kind of reneged on that.

It turns out that, yes, it is a different sound than Matt's earlier work, kind of a trip a little further down that road he started on with Last of the Great Pretenders.  He continues to branch out away from the acoustic sound of his past and more toward a rich, full band sound.  Personally, I'm a big fan of the direction Matt is taking with his music.  This is the kind of song that reminds me why I love the kickass sound system in my car so much.  The kind of song that I can hear and feel, right in my chest where the bass hits.  However, as different as it is, it still contains all of the elements that make Matt's music so wonderful, it's all just wrapped up in a shiny new package.

First of all, there is that voice. That voice is a warm, safe place to hide while the storms blow over.  The voice that so many people have been drawn to and captivated by.  With "Headphones", as with a lot of the last album, he further proves that his voice can hold its own against a lot more than just the soft melodies of an acoustic guitar.  Then there are the lyrics.  Matt has been known to be vocal about his struggles with writing lyrics, but it never shows in the end result.  His lyrics are always witty and perfectly natural, like they just rolled off his tongue, and this song is no different.  My favorite line in this one is: "Good things whisper, bad things shout.  I don't hear 'em now!"  After all, only really great music can truly drown them out.

"Headphones" is such a great song, it makes me super excited to hear what the new album will have in store of us, whenever it's ready to be released into the world.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Matt Nathanson @ Mercury Ballroom 07/26/2014

Artist: Matt Nathanson
Venue: Mercury Ballroom, Louisville, KY
Date: 07/26/2014

Finally, a current picture!  This was from last night's M&G (btw, I was much happier than I look in that picture. That must be my "crapping my pants and trying not to say anything too dumb" face.)
Set List: (I know this is dismally out of order, but I think I remembered most of them.  Please feel free to correct me)

Kill the Lights
Car Crash
Mission Bells
Kinks Shirt
Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave) (!!)
Last Days of Summer in San Francisco
Romeo & Juliet {Dire Straits}
Detroit Waves
Room @ the End of the World
American Girl {Tom Petty}
I Saw
Come on Get Higher

As you've probably gathered already, we got to start this concert season with Matt Nathanson, Aaron Tap & Co. again this year.  Every time we see them, they find some new and different way to blow my mind, and this time did not disappoint.  But hang on, I'll get to that.

The evening had two openers, the first was Matt Mackelcan. He did a short but sweet set that I felt was very well received by the audience.  He's an unassuming performer and seemed very appreciative of people being there and listening, which is always nice to see.  During his set, he brought Aaron Tap out on stage for a couple songs (which I'm sure didn't hurt his credibility with this crowd).  Aaron produced his previous release Slow Down and is working with him on his upcoming From Where I Stand as well.  If you're not familiar with him, you should totally get that way.

Next up was Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.  You probably know Andrew from Jack's Mannequin and/or Something Corporate.  I know I will ostracize myself by admitting that I'm only marginally familiar with his previous bands, but it's a fact.  What I do know is that he's a very impressive performer.  He's like an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm, which is awesome.  He did everything from singing standing on his piano to jumping on the keys to play it with his feet.  Nuts.  I thoroughly enjoyed his set and he was very popular with the audience.  One of the girls I was with got to meet him after the show and she was fan girling like crazy, which is always fun.  I love it when people are excited to meet the artists they adore and aren't afraid to express that excitement. Also, I have to mention that after his set, we witnessed an amazing feat of packing abilities.  The road guys literally turned his entire piano up on its side and put it in a box.  And our movers couldn't even manage a treadmill without damaging the drywall.  What the hell?

Anyway, moving on.  It was finally time for our headliner to take the stage.  Just as it was last time we saw them, the line up was Matt Nathanson (well, obviously), Aaron Tap, Shiben Bhattacharya,and Chris Lovejoy (you know, the drummer from Lexington, KY...Detroit...Lansing...the dude gets around).  This particular combination of artists seems to be the perfect mix.  They opened with the carnal delight Kill the Lights off Last of the Great Pretenders and we knew right away that we were in for rock show tonight.  There was not going to be any pussyfooting around, they got right down to business.  It was after that song that I noticed that Matt brought backdrops this time, with pictures and whatnot projected on them as he played.  I thought, "Holy shit, they have really brought us a full-on rock show, with all the bells and whistles, right into this small, intimate venue.  The best of both worlds!"  I had no idea at the time how accurate that thought would turn out to be.

The show turned out to be by far the most rock and roll show I've seen Matt and the guys play.  They played a bunch of fast, ass-shaking music like Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave) [my personal favorite...which is why they played it, right??], Detroit Waves, Kinks Shirt and his newest song Headphones.  The latter was absolutely amazing live.  Even better than I'd hoped!  And of course there was the ever popular clap-along-song Faster.  I always feel a little creepy during that song because I have to stare at Aaron Tap so intently to accurately follow along with the clapping.  Heh - I have abysmal rhythm, but I managed to do okay last night.  Amongst all of these songs, we did get to see Aaron play the ever loving shit out of his guitar, which was (of course) my favorite thing.  To the delight of everyone, they also covered Tom Petty's American Girl.  As we all know, Tom Petty is untouchable, but they rocked that fucking song.  Andrew McMahon joined them on stage for it and those few minutes of music absolutely melted our faces.  Amazing.  

Earlier in the evening, Andrew came back out on stage to give some piano support for the not frequently played Last Days of Summer in San Francisco.  Matt wasn't quite as chatty as the last time we saw him, but we did get some back story on several songs and this particular one was heartbreaking.  While most all of his songs are real and honest, it's not that often that we get a glimpse of the current internal state of the artists we're watching.  We got that last night and as they played that song, it was all over their faces and it was a touching and beautiful gift they gave us.  He also played his cover of Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet, which we all know from At the Point.  It's such a great song and Matt totally does it justice.  He dipped back in the catalogue and played us some acoustic classics from past records such as Still, Angel and Suspended.  Even amongst all the powerful rock they were playing last night, these songs are still able to instantly create an entirely different atmosphere.  The room becomes quiet, transcendent and wonderful.  He closed with what he calls "the hit", Come on Get Higher.  Sure, it's a crowd favorite and it's a beautiful song, to be sure, but I think All We Are casts a more magical spell.  It's cool though, both are incredible songs that leave a calm, peaceful feeling in your soul as he sends you back out into the world.

Once again, for nearly two hours, everything outside that room ceased to exist.  It becomes just you, the artists on stage and the feel of the drum in your chest.  Everything else drops away and becomes completely insignificant.  All in all, the night was a great illustration of Matt's ever-expanding range as a performer.  I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that I finally got to meet Matt for the first time last night (as evidenced by the above picture).  How cool is it that he still did a meet and greet even though they then had to drive 12 hours to Virginia to play again tonight?  He was every bit as friendly and gracious as everyone had told me he is, in spite of the fact that I was all shaky and nervous and weird(er than usual).  So that was kind of beyond awesome. 

Next up for us are Amanda Shires Isbell, The Black Keys and Carbon Leaf.  I'm hoping for a Dr. Dog show in the near future, but that's not in the cards just yet.  Matt mentioned a potential fall album release too, so I'm super excited at the prospect of another show in the fall!!  :)