Matthew Good @ Status Lounge

. : : July 1st, 2010 : : .

My interest in Canadian alt-rock was minimal at best throughout high school. While I eventually got into bands such as Moist and Our Lady Peace, it wasn’t until their sophomore albums, well after the bands had been established as a Big Deal. More frequently, however, were others like I Mother Earth and Matthew Good Band, who barely registered on my radar. In the late 90’s, I’d become enamored with the grungier side of alternative music: the Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, Nirvana and Placebo were at the top of my musical interests, and these bands almost exclusively originated from the United States and Britain. I didn’t consciously subscribe to the theory that Canadian music was inherently inferior to other countries, but I did resent how aggressively CanCon bands were shoved down our throats. Canadian music channels, both radio and video, were and still are required to be 30% Canadian programming. While this is definitely a reasonable way to protect Canadian Identity (whatever that means) and help promote Canadian music, it does so indiscriminately — allowing poor Canadian music take up 30% of music programming at the expense of quality international music. That’s not to say that all Canadian music is poor, but to argue that most of it was worthy of the incessant airplay it received would be insanity. That being said, I was definitely prejudiced towards Canadian music, and it definitely had to work harder to earn a spot in my DiscMan.

By the time Matthew Good Band really caught my ear with the premiere single (Carmelina) from their ill-fated final disc, The Audio Of Being, it was too late. The band had disbanded, broken apart by the pressure of following up the 2X Platinum hit record, Beautiful Midnight, amongst internal diverging musical interests and subsequent creative directions. My spark of interest waned quickly, and the band was relegated to the back burner. This didn’t last long.

The following year, my first attending Carleton University, I roomed with a devote Matthew Good Band fan and became instant and life-long friends with another. Even if I tried to ward off their influence, I couldn’t say no to the chance to see Matthew Good perform his first “solo” show in Ottawa at the residence bar, Oliver’s. All but completely unfamiliar with the majority of Matthew Good’s music, I was still blown away by that performance (and have later come to regret not being further informed before attending — several songs from his catalog were rarely, if ever, played before or since), and his first solo album, Avalanche, is a masterpiece of musicianship. If I wasn’t a completely converted Matthew Good die-hard then, I was by the time his follow-up record dropped. White Light Rock and Roll Revue had a release date sale of something like $11.99, so I walked forty minutes in a blazing heat to pick it up at the local Future Shop and listened to it on the long walk home. The album was a brilliant mix of upbeat, crunchy rock and roll and mellow, laid back country that sealed the deal upon first listen. I saw Matthew and/or his band no less than a half-dozen times on that album’s tour (perhaps as much as eight — my memory fails me for an exact number just this moment), and even befriended the current rhythm line-up of bassist Rich Priske and Canadian drumming legend, Pat Steward.

Matthew Good announced on his blog on day that he would be ditching his entire band, and would continue in the future with a rotating group of musicians whom would and could change at his every whim. I was a bit disappointed by this, as Rich and Pat were not only awesome, stand-up guys, but brought both excellent musicianship and irreplaceable energy to every Matthew Good performance. This, coupled with the challenging listen of his next album, Hospital Music, knocked Matthew Good off my radar again for a little while.

A couple of years passed, and yet another album was released (his most recent studio effort, Vancouver) and unjustly ignored by me. So when said former roommate invited me to a Matthew Good concert on Canada Day three-quarters of an hour east of Toronto, I’m not sure why I didn’t hesitate before exclaiming an emphatic “YES!” Maybe it was the nostalgia factor? Maybe it was the peer pressure? Or maybe I just decided it was about time to give the man another chance.

The Status Lounge is a brand new nightclub in the heart of downtown Oshawa, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from that description. Bright colours, fashionable decor, and a long dance floor with a tiny stage at one end and flanked by bars at all other ends. That being said, it was apparent by the first few notes into the evening’s opening band, The Spades, that the sound in the venue was a) blisteringly, painfully loud (everyone near me had their fingers in their ears for the first two or three songs), b) way, way better than it had any right to be. My ears are still ringing, 24 hours later, but the temporarily discomfort was worth a one-of-a-kind night, and my most memorable Canada Day celebration in the last decade.

The energy provided by my old pals, Rich and Pat, was well missed — their replacements were technically proficient, but sounded stiffer and lacking in showman’s personality. His new lead guitarist Stuart Cameron, however, unquestioningly trumped Christian Thor Valdson, Good’s former lead guitarist, in both the energy and spectacle categories. Most importantly, the new band seemed to revitalize Matthew Good himself, who performed with more ardor than I’d seen from him in years. Perhaps since that first show at Oliver’s in 2002. It may be because it was the first show of his summer tour, but Good’s voice wasn’t as consistent and riveting as it was once, but more than held its own and the capacity crowd (almost uncomfortably filled, the Status Lounge was) ate up every syllable. Wisely opening with two fan-favourites from the Beautiful Midnight album was a good choice, ensuring that casual and die-hard fans shut up, sit down (metaphorically speaking) and take notice.

It’s unfortunate that the Audio of Being and White Light Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue albums went unrepresented, and the predictable (but well-loved) Apparitions was the only cut played from his earlier Underdogs album, but no one complained about the mix of old and new. The set list only slightly favoured Good’s latest two efforts, but even these songs were performed with more gusto than their recorded counterparts and were unarguably more engaging in the live setting. But it was the CanCon classics that really brought the house down on this night: even the supporting musicians seemed to step their game up several notches for the big anthems, such as Load Me Up (which included an instrumental interlude riffing on Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division).

The recording itself sounds really pretty good. It’s the first time the new Edirol R-09hr has been pushed at a real, all-out rock show, and it performed admirably. The guitars are perhaps a bit thin-sounding, but all the instruments come through loud and crystal clear. The only big, important note is that I missed the first 20-some odd seconds of Giant. I pressed record to engage the R-09’s recording function, but forgot to press record again to actually START the recording. I’m glad I caught on before I missed much, as only a handful of bars were played before I noticed.

All-in-all, a great memorable show that has reminded me why I attended more Matthew Good concerts than I attended certain classes, and has revitalized my love for his music.

01. Giant
02. The Future Is X-Rated
03. The Boy Who Could Explode
04. Great Whales of the Sea
05. [banter]
06. Born Losers
07. I’m A Window
08. Load Me Up > Love Will Tear Us Apart [Joy Division] [tease]
09. Hello Time Bomb
10. “I Like To Drink To Bad Jazz” [jam]
11. Us Remains Impossible
12. [banter]
13. Apparitions
14. Weapon
15. [encore]
16. Champions of Nothing
17. Avalanche

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Apparitions (Live In Oshawa) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Matthew Good and bandmates, The Spades, and the surprisingly pleasant Status Lounge for a great Canada Day celebration.

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