It is almost two years to the day since @IDSupremo and I turned up for the first time at the small but beautifully formed Newhampton Arts Centre tucked away in the back streets of Wolverhampton to see Scott Matthews. Here we are again, this time with both Mrs IDS and Mrs HC in tow, neither of whom really understand the anxiety to be first in line to get a spot right at the front. Truth be told, in a room of probably 150 max people you are never far from the action but our table for four, centre stage, right up front, was what it was all about.
We had heard the strains of support band, Oaken Lee, through the door as we waited, and their set didn’t disappoint. Jake Flowers on guitar, vocals, kick drum and foot activated tambourine, and Will Gauden on bass and harmonies, the pair hail from Worcestershire/Shropshire way, Cleobury Mortimer was mentioned, and although Flowers has been performing under his own name for a while, the pairing is relatively new (Mr Flowers previous stuff can be heard through Myspace). They played a bunch of stuff from their soon to be released EP, The Man I’ll Be, plus Flowers previous single, Small World (the remnant 7″ vinyl stock of which was both available and purchased from the merch table). Flowers has a sweet voice and the playing from both was suitably restrained but fluent. The new EP is available now for download from their Bandcamp site for the pittance that is £3 (T-shirts also available), but cognoscenti such as I (!) were able to cough up a fiver on the night for an immediate download and an old stylee CD to be mailed as soon as they are ready. They played a really enjoyable their set so here’s hoping the EP does well for them – eminently worth catching if their cruise your way.
Having seen Mr Matthews a few times now he never fails to delight but it is in the format of tonight where, for me at least, he excels – just himself and the assorted guitars, bolstered by the twin talents of Greg (please someone give me his last name and any relevant links…) on electric guitar and Sam Martin on sundry percussion. These two young feller-me-lads did that most difficult of things – played with consummate ease and ability, contributing some most excellent guitar work, be it reverb drenched or slide, and tabla (I think!), hand played cymbals and steel brush work; without detracting from the Man himself – really both lads were most impressive.
Clearly as a warm up date for the autumn tour the evening was in part a try-out for the new songs, and indeed this was no small part of the charm. I suspect that the carefully built intro from Greg and Sam should have let Mr M saunter on stage, pick up his guitar and slide into the opener, Myself Again, but of course the best laid plans… Matthews said at one stage that he would love to be slick on stage but can’t manage it. But it isn’t that sort of show you expect, what makes it so successful is actually the endless tuning, calls for ever more reverb, a bit more guitar in the monitor please and so on and so forth, all of which punctuate the sparkling brilliance of the songs and their delivery. Its the total contrast between the “what-do-we-do now?” on stage banter and the soaring elegance of the material (by the way – I wonder if the errant guitar did make its promised meeting with the wall?).
The twelve song set was a welcome slew of new songs interlaced with favourites like Dream Song, Eyes Wider, and Passing Stranger. A few of the new songs have had earlier outings, Ballerina Lake for instance was played at the Slade Rooms last December, but on hearing them together here, there is a welcome sense of return to the spirit of the Passing Stranger album, an intimacy that sometimes felt absent on Elsewhere for some reason. It is Matthews extraordinary vocals and playing that his supporters are drawn to most, both the setting and material tonight let those flow through in abundance, I do hope that his autumn dates will see him in a similar mode and not engulfed by a more muscular band setting.
The new album, What the Night Delivers, promises to be full of fine songs. Matthews was visibly a little anxious about performing the new material, and I guess it must indeed be strange to work on material for so long and finally have it ready to hand over to the masses, wondering how it will be received. If the reactions of the select crowd in Wolverhampton were anything to go by he should harbour no such worries. An evening of the most sublime music – there are many good musicians out there for whom we are all duly grateful, but then there are others who scale even greater heights, Mr M is amongst them.
Of course@IDSupremo was almost overcome with excitement, made a grab for and got signed a set list, had a good chat with the great man himself and secured a groupie shot for the archives – but you would now, wouldn’t you?
A selection of flaky pix from me are on my Flickr account and similar from IDS on his. In addition to the little vid below a couple more are on my You Tube channel – hope Mr M doesn’t mind too much and apologies for the less than professional quality – homespun is the word.
The Man Who Had Everything – Scott Matthews, Wolverhampton 11 June 2011