Matthew Barber & Oh Susanna @ Biltmore -- 06/11/11

While it may have been a stretch to call myself a Matthew Barber fan, I had always liked his songs when they've popped up on the radio. But after picking up his latest album, and having heard too many good things about the Toronto singer-songwriter's live shows, I knew I couldn't let this slip by. It was also the first time I had been to a seated show at the Biltmore, and while it was a little strange at first, it definitely fit the mood of the night.

A night which started off with Vancouver's Nat Jay, who I had never actually had the chance of seeing live. For the first couple songs, it was just her and her acoustic guitar, but she was soon joined by Robbie Driscoll (of damn near every Vancouver band there is) for most of the rest of the set. While a few of the songs were a bit similar-ish, they were all quite catchy and well written, especially lyrically, and she had a really nice voice that perfectly fit the mood of her songs.
As the set went on, she seemed to get more comfortable, chatting with the crowd a bit more, telling the stories behind songs -- a few of which personal -- including one which she said wasn't played live too often, which built to a strong climax. I didn't catch the name, but it was probably my favourite of the set.

Oh Susanna was up next, joined by a slide guitar, and wearing a Canucks jersey (she is originally from Vancouver). She had a very alt-country twang to her set, and an incredibly rich voice. Most of her songs had the same tempo to them, but the set was the perfect length with her powerful voice definitely the focus the songs. And her voice meshed really well with Matt Barber's, when he came out for vocals on "Lucky Ones". She also had good stage banter, keeping the crowd engaged and laughing a few times between songs, and a really good stage presence, seeming completely natural performing.
It was a really good set, and I would definitely be interested in seeing her live again.

In keeping with the openers, Matt Barber took the stage just him & his guitars, and harmonica, for most of the set. Staring off with "(I'm Gonna) Settle My Accounts With You", his hour long set was full of heartfelt, and heartbreaking, songs. A great, and emotional, batch of songs, well written both musically and lyrically. Barber is a great storyteller, both in his songs and in the banter between them, and was very captivating, with the crowd quiet and attentive -- which they were for the whole night, in fact (another rarity for the Biltmore). Throughout the set he brought up a couple of guests to help out on vocals; his sister, the lovely Jill Barber on "While Away" and Oh Susanna on "Let Me Go Home". And as well as switching off between acoustic & electric guitars, Barber also jumped on the piano for "Where The River Bends".
He "ended" the set with "Cinnamon Hearts", but was back before the curfew for one last song, "You and Me" again with Jill on backup vocals, and leading the crowd in the call-and-response to close out the night.

I have to say, after a show like that, I would definitely consider myself Matthew Barber fan now. And I wouldn't be surprised if more than a few people flat out fell in love with him over the course of the night.