Matt Mays @ Imperial -- 11/12/13

Relentlessly touring his latest album, 2012's Coyote, Matt Mays wrapped up his solo acoustic tour at a fairly new Vancouver venue, the Imperial. The last time he was here, Mays sold out the Commodore, so seeing him in a room with less than half the capacity was certainly a treat.

Starting the night was Adam Baldwin, a longtime friend and bandmate of Mays. Baldwin played a short set of about half a dozen songs from his newly recorded EP. It was pretty standard singer/songwriter fare, but Baldwin is a great musician, and his funny and charming banter between his heartfelt songs helped sell it.

Soon after that, Matt Mays slowly took the stage, aided by a pair of crutches, with his only explanation a bit later in the show with a succinct "hot tub party".
Taking a seat, he pulled out his acoustic guitar and harmonica and launched into "Plan" from the self titled Matt Mays & El Torpedo album. He played the first couple of songs alone, the heartbreaking "Loveless" and "Season to Leave" from his old band The Guthries, flubbing a bit of the lyrics on the latter. Any other show it would have been detrimental, but the very loose and laid back atmosphere of the show was forgiving. He jokingly blamed his codeine and T3s, and as the set went on, it just got more and more relaxed. Mays joked with both the crowd and with Adam Baldwin, who came out to join him for the rest of the set. The two needled each other like only old friends could, making the show feel less like a sold out venue, and more like a friend's living room.
Baldwin backed up Mays, going between guitar for songs like a nice rendition of the usually dark "The Past" and keys, for the more upbeat "Digital Eyes". Other highlights included "Queen of Portland Street" and the final song of the main set, "Terminal Romance"; usually an intense and passionate song, the acoustic version really emphasised the heartache of the lyrics.
But after a standing ovation, Mays hobbled back on stage for a few more; starting with a very moving performance of "Chase the Light", essentially dedicated to Jay Smith, that ended in a beautiful sing along.  He brought Baldwin back on stage so he could take over vocals on a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm Going Down", and they wrapped up the night with a quintessential campfire song, "On The Hood".

Mays has long been one of my favourite performers; his full band shows are raw and emotional and intense, and while the acoustic show was a lot more toned down, it was much more intimate, and no less emotional.

The Plan, Loveless, Season to Leave [The Guthries], The Past, Indio, Take It On Faith, [unknown song], Digital Eyes, Spoonful of Sugar, Tall Trees, Queen of Portland Street, City of Lakes, Terminal Romance.
(encore) Chase the Light, I'm Going Down [Bruce Springsteen cover], On The Hood.