Matthew Good | 12.18-19.09

live_matt-good_sm.jpgMatthew Good is one of the most insanely gifted musicians of our time.


12.18.09 | Massey Hall, Toronto, Ont.


More photos from the concert HERE .

As was befitting a brilliant, gifted musician of many moods, Matthew Good crossed the dimly lit stage, picked up an acoustic guitar and, without speaking, began to play "On Nights Like Tonight." This was when I knew it was real, my long-held dream of seeing Good perform: Not only did the man onstage look like him, but the voice coming through the sound system? Shiver-inducing.

After the first stanza the band—which I hadn’t seen take the stage—kicked in, the song growing and multiplying, bumped up from stripped down and fragile to encompassing and full. As with the song before it, "Avalanche" came to us much the same way: at first bare bones, with Good on acoustic, before rising up full swell. And so it would go throughout the night, the juxtaposition of quiet and loud, of Matt’s vocals fragile and then full force, coffee house and arena. On more than one occasion—including the end of the always-beautiful "Avalanche"—Good delivered his lines a cappella: absolutely stunning.

live_matt-good_stu.jpgAnd then a couple songs from his gorgeous new release, Vancouver, "The Boy Who Could Explode" and "Last Parade." By this time, Good had grabbed his electric guitar; however, with the musically brilliant Stuart Manning on lead guitar, he was often content to sit back, play rhythm or use the guitar as a place to rest his arms as he sang. A couple of times he ripped the lead riff, as on the intro to "The Future Is X-Rated" which—finally—got the crowd on its feet. (Those Canadians are nothing if not polite.) The song rocked, it roared, it reared up…and broke suddenly, deliciously down.

It wasn’t until the end of the sixth song, "Great Whales of the Sea," that Good greeted the audience. On this night, his reputation for being prickly was cast aside in favor of joviality. "I’ve had this ongoing competition w/myself to see how long I could start the show without stopping," he joked. And then he was playing "Born Losers," and "The Vancouver National Anthem," the almost-title track from the new disc, which led to a crowd clap-along. Good delivered the final lines sans instrumentation: "We all live downtown/ we all die downtown/ step over ourselves."

A killer guitar line introduced the rocker "Load Me Up"; the song was very well received, with its extended bridges eliciting loud cheers. Good let the crowd sing a couple lines, but downplayed the instrumental segue into "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and back ("I think that’s getting highly predictable. We did it the last time; it’s over."). And then he really opened up.

"My back’s tingling," he told us, after explaining he’d coated it with freeze spray to combat a painful sciatic nerve. "It’s distracting." After improvising a quick ditty about his back, he went on to discuss the art of performance. "The greatest band I ever saw in my entire life was The Replacements, because they were totally unpredictable. There needs to be more of that, more interaction between audience and performer. Something different onstage. Not alcohol; that’s expected."

How about a jaguar, then? A very extended and ultimately hilarious bit ensued about Stu getting eaten by said jaguar—a predator starved for two weeks with a t-shirt of Stu’s scent in his cage. "Do you see where I’m going with this?" Good joked. "If Stu got eaten by a jaguar he’d be a legend in the history of Canadian music. They only sell about 10, 12 copies of that anyway."

Two of Good’s most heartbreakingly beautiful songs followed, "Apparitions" and "Weapon"; with its memorable guitar line and extended jam replete with strobe lights, the latter was obviously the fireworks finale. Of course, the encore was to follow, kicked off with a bang by "Giant." The prerecorded intro to the song—cheerleaders yelling "K-I-C-K-A-S-S! That’s the way to spell success!"—preceded the band, who retook the stage and jumped right in.

After "Us Remains Impossible," Good admitted, "I totally ripped off Big Country when I wrote that part." A solo acoustic bit introduced "Empty’s Theme Park," Good caught in the smoky crosshatch of two rear criss-crossing spotlights, before exploding into a satisfyingly full freakout. The band left the stage and Good delivered his final gift of the evening: a stripped-down version of The National’s "Fake Empire." Then he set down his guitar, clapped to us in thanks, and left.

Matthew Good is not your average rock ‘n’ roll musician. For one thing, he’s far too smart. The man’s an expert on government, current events, world politics and social justice (see for yourself at, and a highly outspoken one at that. He doesn’t care to be a rock star; he only plays music because he’s compelled to do so, and not because he wants to be popular or leave a legacy. Still, he’s one of the most insanely gifted musicians of our time—and one who is shamefully unknown outside of his native Canada. (Perhaps that will change; he’s just announced a full-band U.S. tour in March, his first in ten years.)


Set list

1. On Nights Like Tonight
2. Avalanche
3. The Boy Who Could Explode
4. Last Parade
5. The Future is X-Rated
6-Great Whales of the Sea
7. Born Losers
8. The Vancouver National Anthem
9. Load Me Up
10. Apparitions
11. Weapon

1. Giant
2. Us Remains Impossible
3. Empty’s Theme Park
4. Fake Empire (The National)


12.19.09 | Massey Hall, Toronto, Ont.


True to his word that a performance shouldn’t be predictable, Matthew Good’s second night wasn’t a carbon copy of his first. For starters, he gave us "A Silent Army in the Trees" right off the bat. This time we got "Hello Time Bomb" (quite probably his biggest hit, and the only U.S. crossover single of his career thus far), which got the crowd on its feet by the third song…only to see them politely return to their seats at the song’s conclusion. "Volcanoes" opened with a lone guitar line and a single spotlight, Good delivering the first stanza over sparse instrumentation. And then he spoke.

"There’s a fucking jaguar behind you," he joked, glancing at the stuffed animal that had magically appeared tonight behind Stu. Then he looked closer. "You couldn’t even find a jaguar; that’s a tiger. Jesus."

As written in a review of last night’s show, he said, "It’s disappointing I didn’t even bring up world events last night. Obviously the band is big on the lecture circuit; I think that’s where we lost that half star. That was when I quit doing those PowerPoint presentations."

live_matt-good_250.jpgHe went on to give us his opinion on music journalists. "I think people that review shows for a living— It’s kind of funny, because most of them are failed musicians. Fuck you, don’t review my show." Then he reconsidered, remembered the 2,700-plus crowd. "With technology, you all could review my show. I’d rather know what you think."

Talk turned to his itchy noise and a nagging sinus infection, causing the babbling Good to joke, "It’s amazing. I’ve been talking how long and I haven’t mentioned one thing of relevance. See how I can do that? I’ve been doing that my whole life."

We got "Born Losers" again, then "I’m a Window" and the always arresting "Last Parade," after which Good remarked, "I like that one. It’s kind of Clash-y." "Load Me Up" led into "Alert Status Red," the sole offering from his straightforward rock record White Light Rock & Roll Review, then an encore of the beautiful "Weapon" from the epic Avalanche which preceded it. After "Apparitions," the show—and the tour—were unofficially over. There were hugs onstage. A litany of thank-yous. Almost a cast bow but a last-minute save. Exit, stage right.

During the break the crowd was animated, clapping, chanting "K-I-C-K-A-S-S." But that was not to be. Tonight’s encore was more low-key, from the haunting steel guitar of "Champions of Nothing" to "Odette" and "The Vancouver National Anthem." In between songs, a guy in the crowd began the cheerleader chant anew, to which Good replied singsong, "We get to choose what we play. It’s one of the fucking perks of the job." And again, there was Stu, coaxing just the right blend of sounds and notes and riffs from his guitar. Amazing.

Almost apologetically, Good admitted, "I did this last night. I think I’ll do it again tonight." Of course, he was talking about "Fake Empire," which was just as beautiful the second time around. We clap; he claps; it’s done.

Best Christmas present. Ever. | Laura Hamlett


Set list:

1. A Silent Army in the Trees
2. The Boy Who Could Explode
3. Hello Time Bomb
4. Great Whales of the Sea
5. Volcanoes
6. Born Losers
7. I’m a Window
8. Last Parade
9. Load Me Up
10. Alert Status Red
11. Weapon
12. Apparitions

1. Champions of Nothing
2. Odette
3. The Vancouver National Anthem
4. Fake Empire


About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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