MATTHEW E. WHITE
Leaf Tea Shop
1st July 2013
I love Matthew E White. If you’re looking for any objectivity or impartiality then I’m afraid you won’t find it here. Since its UK release in January this year, White’s debut Big Inner has founds it way to the top of my own, and the Bido office’s CD Pile with no sign of falling.
One of the finest qualities of Big Inner, and what makes it an instant Americana Masterpiece are those moments of restraint. These delicate, diminutive songs sprout little wings and float away, gently nudging towards those moments of bliss that they quietly assure you they are capable of. It is one of the most intimate and most captivating listens of the year so far, reaching deserved levels of acclaim both sides of the Atlantic. What’s strange then, is that tonight’s best moments come when White and the band are their most unhinged. Opener Will You Love Me is leveled by a clatter of drums, whilst One Of These Days sees White step two paces back from the mic and yell ‘You give me joy like a fountain deep inside of my soul’ with the most stunning upper register. For those who have spent the last six months captivated by White’s hushed whisper, this is comparable to watching Enya do pig squeals. It really is very moving though, like watching your favorite, stone-faced movie protagonists break down in an unexpected display of human emotion; bewildering, unimaginable, yet reassuringly human. Big Love is turned into a sprawling, psych-rock epic, with gliassando’d piano, power-stance inducing guitar solos and mountains of drum fills culminating in a ludicrous display of rock and roll indulgence. It’s impossible not to get lost in it, though, and witnessing these songs performed with such urgency and such flair is enough to make you reassess everything you thought you knew about the album. Melancholy is for idiots, and there is no sign of it tonight.
Following a cover of Randy Newman’s Sail Away, White warmly introduces his increasingly cramped looking five-piece band. This plethora of gifted musicians are all, as he describes animatedly, a product of a ten-year-old musical community in his home state of Virginia, the results of which culminating in his debut album. And throughout the evening, as the bass player closes his eyes, as the drummers share a smile, as the keyboard player quietly sings all the lyrics, its clear that whilst it may be Whites name on the front, this is far from a solo album. These are their songs, built upon a decade of love and appreciation for each other and for the music they are creating. This is what makes tonight’s performance so special. There is a telepathy running deep beneath each symbol crash, every pull back and sudden crescendo. It feels as if we are watching them jam in their living room, but we’re not intruding, we have been invited and welcomed like old friends.