Scott Matthews @ Town Hall, Birmingham, UK – 1 December 2012

Posted by Wayne Fox on Saturday Dec 1, 2012 Under Singer/Songwriter

Scott Matthews

Tonight at the Town Hall in Birmingham, I again witness the poised brilliance of Scott Matthews. Up there on stage with just a simple black back drop, and, to set the scene, smoke lingering in the air around him – like an ethereal spirit rising from a funeral pyre.

Matthews gives us a short but sweet first half performance just on his own with an ever-changing array of acoustic guitars all vying for his attention. They are brought from the wings one by one as if waiting to be consumed by Matthews’ touch – like groupies awed in silence. He lulls the audience into a trance with songs from his three studio recorded albums, and unexpectedly at the end of a short first set he plays what could be considered his masterpiece “Elusive” (released 2006 on his debut first album “Passing Stranger”). I think I must have been expecting a special announcement or something, as he drops this one on us without warning -and that’s a bit of a shock (be it an understated version too). In my mind, and from what I know about the man, Matthews is attempting to move beyond the dizzying heights of his Ivor Novello award winning song. My notion is that he’s conflicted here – as he cannot deny the audience his greatest song to date, and yet is attempting to surpass his own genius, which lingers in the air as if caught in amber for eternity.

Scott Matthews

Scott tells us that “this is the first time that I have supported myself” reminding us just how funny he can be – Something I observed back in 2009 when I first reviewed him for Gig Junkies.

For the second half Matthews ends his first tune by stating “it’s quiet in here innit?” again that self effacing humour, never once owning up to the fact that perhaps there might be a very good reason for the din. He continues to delight throughout, switching from virtuoso performer to stand up comedian, as often as he changes his guitars.

Scott Matthews

During the first few numbers Matthews is joined by his band, and the sound becomes a much more livelier affair – lit up in colour with still that smoke wafting slowly past. Matthews and his troupe of talented musicians are so tight it’s untrue. Accompanied by mandolin, lap steel, and drums. But also tabla played in the traditional way, and a drum kit played solely with the hands. It’s a pretty perfect performance by all – but I wonder if Scott Matthews is capable of going beyond that?

I just want to shout out “let go Scott!” It’s so close to the edge, but never tips over. At one point I hear his voice begin to crack, as if he’s torn between producing the perfect performance, and that minute difference that means entering another realm. A higher order, where what you get becomes a little flawed, but ultemateley transcends perfection. I think that if Matthews can take a risk and go there, he’ll be moving into the realm of the gods.

Scott Matthews

Highlights for me this evening are ‘Walking home in the rain’ – which sets my heart aflutter, and ‘Passing Stranger’ – here playing harmonica hobo style like he’s in the wilds of North America – just passing by on a locomotive.

Scott Matthews

I guess some of Matthews’s work is devoted to themes of geographical and emotional displacement, but for me what comes through too, is a yearning, to simply be home. A guru on your travels might tell you that the answers you search for are right here where you are, right now. Matthews tells us that there will definitely be at least one, if not two album releases next year, but will he move in another direction? Or perhaps take a chance on moving to those higher realms? This is certainly an artist worthy of even higher acclaim, but can he now ascend all that has gone before?

Scott Matthews

This is going to be interesting…

Words by Sara Reynolds
Photos by Wayne Fox, email me.

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