Thursday, 29 March 2007
a mystery now to me and you...
Scott Matthews @ Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 28th March 2007
For various reasons I ended up with spare tickets for this gig. Rather than let them go to waste, I made various enquiries around the office and elsewhere to see if I could find any takers. Not only was nobody interested, but a couple of people also told me that they had already been offered tickets to the same gig already. That didn’t bode particularly well, and I was therefore not in the least bit surprised to see that the gig was bumped from Rock City to the Rescue Rooms. It’s true that the smaller venue was therefore absolutely packed, but the main hall in Rock City would have been echoing (as it was when I went to see Gene a few years back, when they were supported by a performance poet by the name of Selina Saliva. Yes, she was as bad as the name implies, although Gene were excellent).
It has to be said that Scott Matthews didn’t look especially fazed by this situation as he ambled amiably onto the stage and started fiddling quietly with his acoustic guitar. Initially I thought he was just engaging in a bit of onstage tuning, but when he turned to the mic and started to sing, it turns out that it was actually a song. Here’s the thing though: he was really, really quiet. It wasn’t just a volume thing – although the amps were hardly turned up to 11 – nor was it especially his voice – which I suspect has Ray LaMontagne-like foghorn tendencies when roused… it was just that the sound was so mellow as to be almost somnambulant. Things didn’t get much better when Matthews took up an electric guitar and was joined onstage by the rest of his band, comprising a cellist, a bassist and a drummer. It was just, well, quiet.
At first the audience was respectfully hushed, but after a couple of songs something of a background burble started to emerge. As I was standing off to one side and my view was slightly obscured by a pillar, my attention started to wander into the crowd. It was very mixed. Most of the gigs that I go to are attended by earnest looking men of various ages and very few women. This gig was different, and I would guess that the mix was much closer to 50:50 (ah, but he’s a sensitive singer/songwriter type, so what was I expecting?). There was also quite a large age range too: the youngest person I saw was probably a teenager and the oldest person there was probably pushing 50. As I looked about, I could see that I also seemed to be surrounded by quite a few couples (of all sexual persuasions) gently holding hands or nuzzling up against each other during songs, which was quite sweet, but did rather emphasise that the place wasn’t exactly rocking. I think it’s fair to say that our Scott seems to have a fairly wide appeal. I turned my attention back to the stage just as the tempo lifted and caught a sight of the cellist looking as though he was sawing through a log....
I quite like Scott Matthews and I quite enjoyed the gig. I first discovered him when I heard "Elusive" being played on the radio, and this remains both his most famous and substantially his best song. He sensibly saves it until the encore, but even then, as soon as he has played it, people begin to leave. It is a really excellent song though. The rest of the set rather pales in comparison. Matthews has an interesting and distinctive voice, but for someone who hails from Wolverhampton he rather oddly sings in a very American way - a little bit like that guy from Gomez. This is compounded by the fact that a lot of the backing music sounds very US soft country rock too. When voice and music are put together, the overriding impression is that it is vaguely derivative. There's also the inevitable Jeff Buckley comparison: Matthews looks and sounds a touch like Buckley. The whole sound of the gig was strongly reminscent of Jeff Buckley's "Live at Sin-é" album. But Matthews can only suffer in the comparison. Buckley was a better singer, a better songwriter (in the main) and a better guitarist. That's not to say that Matthews is bad by any means, just that he's not *that* good (and frankly, how many people are?).
Perhaps it's best summed up by the fact that a certain element of the crowd seemed far more interested in the England score (vs Andorra, for heaven's sake!) than they were in the gig.
Verdict: pleasant, but not much more than that. 6/10