Scott Matthews at Auntie Annies
Auntie Annies, Belfast
Saturday 1st October 2011
The road of the singer songwriter is a track walked by many. While some come along armed with familiar 4-chord structures and easily signposted melodies, occasionally a certain musician will appear from out of the blue with the key to another dimension of acoustic music that can keep you captivated. This evening we taste both poles of this particular spectrum...
Opening up the evening, is local musician Jason Clarke. It becomes noticeable quite early on in the set that there are many contemporary influences, perhaps too much for comfort. ‘Sparks’ proves to be the highlight of the set: showcasing tasteful harmonic vocals and intricate guitar work, it gives us a glimpse at the songwriter’s potential. Alas, the set faces a swift decline caused by a lukewarm cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’’. All in all the set is a pleasant one, but it ultimately fails to leave a memorable impression.
Our headline act, however, is quite simply the opposite of acoustic predictability. Taking to the stage unannounced, Matthews gently eases us into the set with the achingly beautiful ‘Myself Again’. It takes for the crowd to settle down before we can get the full impact of the song, but by the chorus, all hearts have melted and it’s hard not to feel a little choked. A marvellous opener by anyone’s standards, closely followed by ‘Dream Song’.
Courtesy of Matthews’ multi-talented backing band, there’s plenty of instrumentation on display, the peculiar pairing of an e-bow with a lap steel guitar, adding swirls of smoky atmosphere to the likes of the woozy ‘Head First into Paradise’.
As the set goes on, you truly get a sense of Matthew’s mastery of the guitar. One moment he displays wonderfully melodic finger picking, the next he unleashes some greasy slide guitar, particularly on ‘Sweet Scented Figure’. However, the real jewel in the crown is his vocal delivery, singing with the similar velvet tones to the late Jeff Buckley, but claiming a heart rending breathiness uniquely his own.
The main bone of contention with the set doesn’t lie with the gig itself, but with a few bad apples amongst the crowd, who spoil the evening by talking throughout the entire set. Even in the quietest of moments, certain members of the audience don’t give Matthews or his music the respect it deserves. Irrespective of any trifling nuisances, the startling originality and flawless delivery of the Wolverhampton native powers through, leaving this reviewer in awe and counting down the days for his return to our shores.