This past Wednesday my little sister and I went to the First Avenue to see Mat Kearney. We went out for dinner after I got off of work and made an entire evening of it. I had never been to First Avenue, so it was a bit of an experience. Before the show and between sets they showed videos on the projector screen and TVs. We saw too much of Ghost World as well as The Prestige and The Yellow Submarine. The movies were played with subtitles and there was music playing on the speakers. Talk about sensory overload.
The opening band was called Rocco DeLuca. The lead singer, Rocco himself, was an interesting musician. He had a pretty high voice and did a pretty loud scream/sing in almost every song. Rocco probably could do spot-on covers of KT Tunstall songs, I think. He and his band had a variety of styles, of which my favorite was definitely "Swing Low," his "ode to Americana music" that started out as an folksy piece but developed into a full rock 'n' roll show in the course of the song. Rocco DeLuca is definitely a talented artist and worthy of being on this "VH1 You Oughta Know" tour.
The second opener was The Feeling, an intriguing new British band. The five-piece had a great 70s/80s pop/rock sound and very tight four-piece harmonies throughout their songs. As usual to us Minnesotans, the accents were lots of fun to listen to. Lead singer Dan Gillespie Sells was once asked what was in his water bottle and he said, "Two tea bags and a little bit of whiskey for my soul," then launched into their latest single, "RosÃ©," a song about love and alcohol. They were great showmen, running around stage in their nice vests and trousers and keeping the crowd's attention. They closed with an infectious song, "Love It When You Call".
I'll have to say here that while I have seen many live shows, I'm mostly used to rock shows. With Mat Kearney being more of a singer-songwriter type, Mat didn't wow me completely on stage. Unlike the opening bands, Mat's backup didn't do any blistering guitar solos or on-stage antics. That being said, the band was very solid backup, delivering all the music perfectly and not getting in the way of the star, Mat Kearney.
Mat Kearney played almost every song on his latest, Nothing Left to Lose, throughout the evening, plus a couple others. Also played was rare track "Chicago" as well as a new song, which I believe was titled "City of Black and White," about a recent vacation to Istanbul. It was a nice ballad, but the audience didn't care for it much because they couldn't sing along. Otherwise, the crowd sang along to every word but did not distract from the performance. Besides playing a number of guitars, Mat also sat down at the keyboard for a couple songs, including "All I Need," which he mentioned was about a couple of his friends who are New Orleans residents and their experience with Hurricane Katrina. At one point in a song he played the wrong notes on the keyboard, quickly apologized, and then kept playing the song. That was so cool.
Much like the last time I saw Mat when he was opening for an act with only him and an acoustic guitar, my favorite parts were the times that Mat Kearney freestyled a verse. To close the concert, Mat added an epic last verse to "Undeniable" that he made up on the spot. Throughout this two-minute verse, he rhymed to the melody about being at the First Avenue, loving the crowd in Minneapolis, the crazy weather we had the last couple days, and much more. It was just mind-blowing that the man is so good with words that he can put together a different verse on the spot, every night.
All in all, it was a great evening. Mat and company did a terrific job and my sister and I had a great time. Any fan of Mat Kearney's music or any pop singer/songwriter should definitely check this show out.