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Wednesday, 19 October 2011 22:33

Concert review: Matt Nathanson shows off stage banter and medleys at the Pageant, Tuesday, October 18

Concert review: Matt Nathanson shows off stage banter and medleys at the Pageant, Tuesday, October 18 Abby Gillardi
Written by Will Kyle
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The Leeds, UK band, Scars on 45 -- a recent addition to Matt Nathanson's tour -- opened with a seven-song set that included runaway hit "Heart On Fire" featured on Grey's Anatomy.

The five-piece band, helmed by dual and alternating male and female vocals, created a suite of sweeping melodies and powerful indie hooks. "Loudest Alarm" and "Give Me Something" stood out as highlights. The starstruck and humble band took a photo of the venue and asked everyone present to tag themselves via Facebook.

The lights dimmed and a giant canvas heart hanging behind the stage glowed red and purple. An "Indiana Jones" orchestral score blared over the speakers as Nathanson and his band filed on stage. The music stopped as Nathanson addressed the crowd, "Sweet, Sweet, St. Louis," before he strummed into "Mercy." The audience cheered as the Train-meets-Maroon 5-vibe spiraled through the venue. Toward the middle of the song, Nathanson sang into a second microphone for dreamy vocal effects.

Nathanson played a half cover of "Dog Days," by Florence and the Machine, on his acoustic before the song slipped seamlessly into his own "Pretty Little World." This was not the only medley of the evening, and the audience loved how Nathanson rocked out and blended his own music, in medley fashion, with cover songs. For instance, "Queen of (K)nots" toyed with thick, guitar-driven licks and piano cacophony that sputtered into "Tainted Love," originally sung by Gloria Jones. "Tainted Love" kept up for a verse and a chorus before Nathanson segued into "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode for a single bar. Here Nathanson's sense of play shined through. The man, clearly a music fan himself, knows where his own tracks intersect with tradition.

Nathanson introduced "Modern Love" as a song about his female friend who believes, "All good men are either dead or taken by other good men." During the song, Nathanson held a shaker and strutted the stage while the song's bombast propelled the audience into a fit of dancing. "Kept" featured a tempered, rising intensity as drummer Konrad Meissner kept time with padded mallets. The subdued acoustic, slathered over a bed of atmospheric synthesizer, stood as a healthy contrast to Nathanson's more energetic material off 2011's "Modern Love."

On "Curve Of The Earth," the energy returned with a flourish of Police-inspired lead guitar and Petty-esque lyrical delivery. Nathanson, confidant he would not miss a single note, smiled through the entire song. During the dirty ditty "Laid," -- "She only comes when she's on top" -- Nathanson led the audience through a chorus of "He-eee's" as the groove shimmied with a Latin style reminiscent of "La Bamba."

Before Nathanson started "Princess," he told the audience, "This song sounds like 'Jessie's Girl,' so don't think you're so fucking smart for pointing it out." The audience sensed another medley, and indeed, after the second chorus, Nathanson broke into verses of 'Jessie's Girl," by Rick Springfield. The audience went bat shit as Nathanson told the audience he needs them to "project" for the chorus. They did and drowned Nathanson for a round of "Jessie's Girl," before the song snapped back to Nathanson's own "Princess."

Before "Kiss Quick," Nathanson commented, "This next song is my favorite of my children on 'Modern Love.' Like if I were a kitten with too many nipples, I'd give my ultimate nipple to this song." The audience laughed as digi-drum swirl and diminished lyrics flooded the venue. The house lights faded blue and mixed with palm-muted guitar.

Nathanson donned his electric guitar for "Detroit Waves" as snare stabs and high-hat rolls fell from Meissner's drum kit. The bridge melded into Katy Perry's "Fireworks" for four bars before exploding back into the chorus. Nathanson offered up Prince cover "Little Red Corvette" in a stripped-down acoustic fashion, which the audience unfortunately chattered over as they hit the bar a final time.

Nathanson remained in acoustic mode through "Bear" and "Sing Me Sweet" before "Room at the End of the World" snapped the show back to full energy with a cover of R.E.M.'s "It's The End of The World As We Know (And I Feel Fine)" built inside via another medley.

"Drop To Hold You," "Faster," and radio hit "Come On Get Higher" had everyone in the venue pouring their lungs out over Nathanson's words and doting on his every hip thrust and head bop. The showman left the stage before returning with an encore of "All We Are," which he prefaced by hating on Snookie and Kim Kardashian.

"Entertainment is trumping art," he said. "People are getting famous for fame's sake. They think their fame will save them. Humans are better than that." Too true Mr. Nathanson, too true. Last night's show exemplified what that betterment sounds like.

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