27th March, 2022
Matthew has a groovy band and that is the highlight of the evening in Leeds, as this singer-songwriter-producer translates his work to the stage. White’s last album is very much a studio creation – excellently produced into a complex set of pop-soul that sets feet tapping. Heavily seventies-influenced, there are trainspotter references to look out for. Live, however, Matthew has the issue of stage-presence to deal with. Laid-back and affable enough, the crowd are more than willing to make allowances (they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t know his music) but the evening is a shadow of the albums and the live jolt is missing.
Matthew E White is a tall figure who, stoops slightly in an almost apologetic way. His quiet manner in a nondescript black hoodie underplays what he is doing. Hidden behind long black hair, a big black beard and a baseball hat, he appears to be dripping out lyrics in an off-the-cuff way without acknowledging he is the lynch pin of the operation; the man who made the music; the man who structured the songs; the man responsible for the groove that has half of the thin crowd dancing. Yet his presence is understated and almost fails to register; neither presenting the lyrics clearly nor upping the emotional temperature. It felt as if he didn’t feel he had to do anything to win attention.
I look to see a different take on the music or an extra spark when I go to a gig but tonight was at best, a cover version of half the new album and half older material. After the slower ‘Nested’, the groovy band picked up with the irrepressible piano-rocker, ‘Judy’, and stayed pretty groovy through to the end, bar one number introduced as a ‘slow dance’. The epic ‘This is America’ was skipped, which, is probably wise – it is a bit of a mood killer. The guitarist can kick up a good squall when he wants and smiled to himself. The keyboardist kept the momentum up on his Nord and Wurlitzer, alongside the drum fills.
Over an hour or so we had most of the new album and a few older numbers and it was time to say goodnight with a couple of old favourites. It hadn’t been overwhelming but it was pleasant. I do recommend picking up K-Bay, release from last year, where the production on the songs is very nice indeed and the collaborative release that came before it (Broken Mirror) for its imagination.