Matthew Good @ Rio Theatre -- 11/27/14

When the ticket website StubHub announced that their "Next Stage" concert series would include an acoustic Matthew Good at the Rio Theatre, I knew there was no way I could miss it. Good has long been a favourite of mine, and his solo acoustic shows are among the best shows I have seen, especially when in a relatively intimate venue.

Toronto's Dani Jean (also of Mickey Loves Mallory) started things off for the night, behind the keys with a stripped down, soulful pop sound. Her breathy vocals drove haunting songs, many of which seemed to be about various stages of love.
Mid-way through her short set she swapped to an acoustic guitar for a song called "Broken Angels"
and a cover of "Habits" by Tove Lo (which I had never actually heard before, but from the lyrics could tell it was more of a pop song than her gentle interpretation) before going back to hey keyboard for one last one, a song called "Hurts Like Hell".
She put on an enjoyable set, and I would be interested to hear what she's like with a full band, or as part of the Mickey Loves Mallory project.

Matthew Good took the stage armed with his guitar, launching right into "Strange Days" from one of my favourite albums of all time, Beautiful Midnight for a two-hour set that spanned nearly his entire career. He reached as far back as the hidden track on his debut Last of the Ghetto Astronauts -- and what may have been the first popular use of the phrase "first world problems" -- "Omissions of the Omen" where he broke a string on his guitar; had the entire crowd singing along in a hushed choir for "Symbolistic White Walls"; played a few older favourites like "So Long Ms Smith" and a re-worked "Truffle Pigs" all from the Matt Good Band days.

The set also included a few personal favourites, like "Prime Time Deliverance" a powerful song that never fails to give me chills; the intense "A Boy And His Machine Gun", which I don't think I had ever heard live before; and the usually-symphonic "While We Were Hunting Rabbits" simplified to a cool acoustic version while Good's voice soared and filled the theatre.

There were a few songs that were completely re-worked to fit the acoustic format. The frantic and thumping "Load Me Up" was turned into a slower, almost alt-country flavoured song. "Alert Status Red" into a classic protest song. He even mentioned that more songs would probably be given acoustic versions, as he will be embarking on an acoustic tour next April, following his new album in March.

As is the case with most of his acoustic shows, the atmosphere was very relaxed and candid. There were a few small flubs during songs, but when he admitted to screwing something up, or not remembering lyrics to songs he hadn't played in 15 years, it didn't come across as "bad". His proclivity to banter with the crowd between songs made it feel less like a show, and more like some friends sitting around someone's living room. He even occasionally chatted to people one-on-one as he recognised longtime fans in the crowd, or people from his past.

During the set he talked about everything from behind-the-scenes jokes, and why he changed some songs and couldn't play others -- at one point he just let people yell song titled and explaining why he couldn't play each (sometimes sincerely, sometimes glibly). He went from the absurd (don't get into music, get into washroom fixtures) to political (who exactly declares that there is a "war" on Christmas?) and everything in between (Lamb's Rum) as the show was about three quarters music and one quarter storytelling.

After a sold hour and a half, he brought the main set to an end with "Apparitions" -- which, when someone yelled it out earlier he joked of course he was going to play it, they day that he didn't would be the day he was beaten to death by fans -- before he was obviously back out for a few more including a song that his record label deemed "too country", "Hopeless", and the absolutely gorgeous and heartwrenching "Sort of a Protest Song", before finally ending the night on a positive note, his fantastic cover of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You In The End".

I've said countless times before on this very blog that Matthew Good ranks among my all time favourite musicians, and it's shows like this that cements that position. How he can effortlessly shift from light-hearted banter to heavy, dark songs. His powerful voice that, even if it can't still hit the highs, can blast you right in the chest and rip open your heart. He played for two hours, and I probably still could have stayed for more. 

Strange Days, Tripoli, Born Losers, A Boy And His Machine Gun,  99% Of Us is Failure, Truffle Pigs, Symbolistic White Walls, Prime Time Deliverance, So Long Ms. Smith, Metal Airplanes, While We Were Hunting Rabbits, Omissions of the Omen, Load Me Up, Apparitions. 
(encore) Alert Status Red, Silent Army in the Trees, Empty Road, Hopeless, Sort of a Protest Song, True Love Will Find You In The End.