Concert Review: Matthew Good @ Massey Hall, Toronto 5/29/08

“When we were young and hit like hammers
I’d write the nails in our hands
But when 99% of us is failure, there’s no going back…
Walk outside, get in the car
Stare at the wheel and then fall apart…”

99% Of Us Is Failure – Matthew Good

I could watch Matthew Good perform on a nightly basis, and never tire of the experience.  Band, no band, long set, short set…  Hell, I’d be quite fine listening to the man speak for an hour on politics and life.  There are few artists with whose work I connect as strong as I do with Matt’s words and, as with those other artists, it comes down to the entire package of art+lyrical genius+haunting melodies+intelligence+genuine interaction with fans.

My first taste of Matthew Good’s work came with the album Underdogs playing in the background of a tutoring session I was conducting with an 8th grade student named Lianne, whose musical tastes were solid and led to a bonding beyond tutor and pupil.  I sort of adopted her for a while as a kid sister, taking her to concerts, including a festival called Edgefest in 1999.  While there primarily to see Finger Eleven and Moist, we did take in part of Matthew Good band’s set.  I wasn’t paying much attention, but I nodded along and thought them decent.

Fast forward to 2000, when my father (whose musical tastes range from the blues of Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal to Pink Floyd and Nirvana) forced a copy of Matthew Good Band’s Beautiful Midnight into my hands and demanded I take a listen to it.  My dad’s taste in music is solid enough that we like much of the same stuff; hell, we have the same favourite Pink Floyd song (Comfortably Numb).  I take said CD home and spin it.

I don’t stop spinning it for a week.

While I’d always loved the song Apparitions (a huge single for the band), Beautiful Midnight is what sold me on Matthew Good’s talents and sent me digging through the back catalogues, feasting upon clever metaphors and lyrics that spoke to the darker corners of my mind.  Unknown to me at the time, Matthew Good and I share the same mood disorder (Bipolar Disorder), and perhaps that is why in my darkest hours certain songs have hit so incredibly close to home, it feels as if someone had stolen my diary and internal monologues and sold them to the man.  When Matthew went solo with the album Avalanche, it felt to me as if he’d hit a comfort zone and stride, and I eagerly followed along for the ride.  Due to various life woes getting in the way, it took until 2004 for me to finally see the man live, at which point I quickly realized that I not only enjoyed and cherished the man’s music, but I also respected him as a human being.  I took to following his online blog, which spans the political and the personal in a way that few artists do in public spaces.  Lately, I’ve begun posting comments as well, interacting with someone whose honesty gives me hope and whose insights into our current world and political state keep my eyes open and my mind informed and critically thinking.

I looked forward to this, my third show, with great enthusiasm; I’d missed the solo acoustic tour in 2007 due to being in Detroit seeing the female complement to Matthew , Tori Amos (another artist whose intellect and opinions are as important to me as the music; another artist whose honesty about her personal life inspires and awes me), and Hospital Music, Matthew’s latest release, was my favourite new album of 2007, hands down.  99% Of Us Is Failure has managed to overtake songs of his I’ve been spinning for years to become the most played Matthew Good track in iTunes by a large margin.  And at this show, nestled on the balcony of Massey Hall, Matthew Good did not fail to deliver a strong set with witty banter in healthy doses.

Some of the highlights:

Champions Of Nothing:  The set opener, and one of many songs that resonate strongly with me, it left me in tears.  There’s such a poignancy to the lyrics (“the globe, it starts shaking/was it me not worth knowing?”) that always strikes me at my core.

A Single Explosion:  This song is short but powerful, and live, Matthew, for lack of a more eloquent phrase, ‘went for it’ at the end, belting out the final lines and just ripping my heart out.

Hello Time Bomb:  This one was a treat if only for Matthew’s pre-song banter, commenting on how being a musician means that your mistakes are captured for prosperity on thousands of copies, such as the line, “My devil’s on sugar smacks/Down at the Radio Shack” (which I happen to think is one of the more fun lines, especially considering that Radio Shack was bought out and no longer exists).

I’m A Window:  Strong vocal delivery coupled with strong band backing makes for a rocking good time.

99% Of Us Is Failure:  Everything I could have hoped for and then some.  Not every artist has the distinction of being better in a live format, but Matthew is certainly one.  I truly hope for a live album soon from the man.  I digress.  This song plays out even more melancholy live, and reignited the tears from Champions of Nothing.  Highly cathartic and therapeutic to listen to live.

Apparitions:  I’d never heard this one with a band backing, so it was a treat to finally hear it ‘rocked out’.

Giant:  One of my favourites from Beautiful Midnight, this was a stellar, strong performance that makes the album cut seem tame or on valium.

Strange Days:  Done on acoustic guitar, this is another favourite of mine and one I’d yet to hear live, so I was very glad I helped scream like a madwoman to encourage a second encore.
Matthew Good’s one artist I simply cannot encourage enough people to check out; for starters, I’d suggest Hospital Music, Avalanche and In A Coma (greatest hits compilation).  Check out his official site including blog below.

Matthew Good – Official Site

SETLIST – Matthew Good @ Massey Hall, Toronto 5/29/08

Champions of Nothing
A Single Explosion
The Devil’s In Your Details
Hello Time Bomb
Born Losers
Load Me Up
Put Out Your Lights
Blue Skies Over Bad Lands
Black Helicopter
I’m A Window
99% Of Us Is Failure

Encore 1:
She’s In It For The Money
Everything Is Automatic

Encore 2:
Strange Days (solo acoustic)
True Love Will Find You In The End (solo acoustic)

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