Band: Mat Kearney
Venue: Webster University (Parking Lot E)
City: Webster Groves, Missouri
Date: September 28, 2007
Opening Acts: Jesse Irwin, Tyler Burkum
01. Crashing Down
02. Break Her Fall
05. In the Middle
08. Where We Gonna Go from Here
09. Girl America
10. City of Black & White
11. Nothing Left to Lose
12. All I Need
14. Breathe In / Breathe Out
15. Won't Back Down
This won't be too long, since although I was present for the entire concert, I was also working at it. After helping set up for an hour before my classes and then returning after working an extended regular shift, I mostly blocked people from entering from the back corner and then checked IDs. I was pretty busy and distracted for most of the show, but I did manage to snag a setlist while taking down the stage setup. On a personal level, separate from the music, it was an enjoyable experience for me to be such a part of a concert – I had an event staff shirt and an access pass. It's always good to feel like you're on the inside.
So, I'll be honest, I hadn't heard of Mat Kearney until I heard he was coming. I mean, that's simply because he comes from a movement that normally doesn't interest me, and his singles are played on radio formats that I ignore and in television shows that I avoid. I figured I'd give him a chance, especially since I'd be there anyway due to my job.
The first opener, Jesse Irwin, was a Webster graduate who had played at Webster before, both at our old unplugged series as a student and at Homecoming as an alumni. He played a short set based on a sort of acoustic country feel. Not my thing but not bad or anything. Thereafter, Tyler Burkum came on. Burkum is apparently Kearney's guitarist but makes his own mostly-acoustic music on the side. I must confess my large degree of distraction, but what I did hear sounded pleasant. He played a short set, and I believe he did a song or two with some other guys.
Mat Kearney finally came to the stage and was accompanied a handful of musicians who handled additional guitar, keyboard, bass, and drums. Kearney himself played guitar and sang. I didn't catch lyrics nearly at all, so I really can't get deep here. In general, the music was on the lower-key side of things, which is to say, not metal. The sound was usually clean and largely straightforward (as in, not a lot of complex structure or intricacies – which shouldn't be taken to mean I thought it was dull, just that I didn't notice anything crazy on the basis of music theory). There were brighter, more upbeat songs, and slower, minor chord pieces. (Does that describe every concert or what?) During the long instrumental beginning of the first song, one of the bartenders near me said it sounded like the Smashing Pumpkins. I couldn't disagree – the tempo and general sound or feel of that first song sort of did feel Pumpkinesque. After the second song, the bartender said it sounded like Coldplay, and again, I couldn't disagree – Kearney's vocals are a bit similar, and the music seemed to be moving in a bit of that sort of modern alt-rock sound direction.
I must repeat, my attention was not as focused as it should have been to be writing a review, but I have to say the general sound was good enough for me. I can only guess about lyrical content, which is normally very important for me, but the sound was pleasant enough. Probably not something I'd listen to a lot, but not bad if I happened to catch it somewhere. I did notice that Kearney pulled out a few raps, which I found interesting. A few of my coworkers and friends seemed to disapprove, but from what I heard, he did a decent job of it.
Kearney pulled out his two singles at the end of the main set ("Nothing Left to Lose" and "Undeniable"), and the audience really reacted to both of those. We had maybe 800 people, and they were pretty into it at that point, even if a significant fraction were local high school girls. I'd call it a fun time, even if it wasn't down my aisle of style. Clearly, it attracted other people well enough.
(Remember, C means average. This is after all only a half-informed judgment anyway, but it felt like a solid C. Not bad but not great in my mind. Like I said, clearly there were plenty others who dug it, but considering my tastes and the standards I use for my reviews, this score feels right.)
P.S. I know I said my next review would be David J's Embrace Your Dysfunction, but I felt like writing this spur-of-the-moment before finishing that. I also decided to forego reviewing my own performance Wednesday at the Red Sea with the Awesome Black Hole. That was fun, if flawed. Anyway...
[Edit, 10/12/08: I have no idea what I was thinking when I gave this guy a C. Looking over my review, I was negative the whole time but tried to play it down for some reason. Well, I'm not going to change what I wrote, but if I could do it again he'd get a D.]