“I know you’re here to catch your breath…”

As most of you probably know, I have been to a lot of concerts… whether it’s been large shows at arenas or smaller gigs at the House of Blues-type places or outdoor music festivals. For the most part I am impartial to openers. They usually have a good amount of talent and are reasonably entertaining but I generally can take them or leave them. I don’t usually buy their CDs and, when I do, I don’t usually listen to them (Sorry, White Light Riot! Someday I will listen to the CDs I bought at Chicago City Limits!). It seems to me that opening acts are sort of the toll you have to pay to see the band you really want to see.

Sunday night I saw Matt Nathanson (and Aaron Tap) at The University of Iowa and the opener was Megan McCormick. Halfway into her first song and several times throughout her 45 minute set, it really hit me: opening acts aren’t the toll you pay to see the band you really want to see. Openers are the lottery you play, not knowing that one show you might get lucky and see someone like Megan McCormick. She played an electric guitar and sang with the most beautiful, sad voice I’ve heard in a long time. She wasn’t very talkative and didn’t even introduce herself until someone in the crowd yelled, “Who are you?”. I don’t know much about music but I do know that I wasn’t bored for one second during her set. And considering she didn’t play any covers and I’d never heard any of her music, that is saying quite a bit. She said that she usually plays with a rock band and I have to say – I would love to see this girl front a band. But for this show it was just her and Lee Holland, who played a small bongo drum (or some kind of drum; I do not know drums!) and sang harmony. Definitely check her out on MySpace Music: http://www.myspace.com/meganmccormicksmusic.

Kelly and I were trying to count how many Matt shows we’d been to since our first at Summerfest (Piggly Wiggly stage) in 2004. We came up with 17. This is a small number compared to some fans but it’s a pretty big number considering we’ve also seen 10+ Howie Day shows since then as well as several other concerts and probably some touring productions of RENT.

At about 8:30pm Matt and Aaron came on stage. There were signs posted everywhere saying “NO CAMERAS” so I took out my phone to get one good shot of the stage but a “security guard” (an 18 year old kid in a green tee shirt with Screech hair) told me to put it away and if they had to warn me again, I’d be kicked out. So I’m not sure if he thought it was a camera or what BUT – I wanted to keep track of the set list on my phone but was afraid he’d kick me out for having the damned thing out! So I do know that they opened with ‘To The Beat of Our Noisy Hearts’, then ‘Lucky Boy’, and then ‘Gone’. I don’t hear ‘Gone’ often live so that was exciting.

The set lasted over two hours. A few high points throughout the show:

• The intro to ‘Still’ was basically like listening to soft core porn. There was something about biting… and ripping each other’s clothes off… and not having enough hair to pull.

• A good hour or more into the set, I turned to Kelly. “Oh! He’s wearing a vest!” I thought it was a tiny work shirt but it was, in fact, a vest. This is exciting to me as I love vests on guys. Side note: Matt is the only guy who can rock a black shirt, navy vest, and brown pants.

• ‘Curve of the Earth’. Just because it’s my favorite.

• Matt shared a hysterical story about Sharpies and how they’ve ruined his life. He said that he found the cap of a Sharpie that he had had in his pocket… but no Sharpie. I BELIEVE he said there was Sharpie ink all over the back seat of his rental car but I’m not sure. He did say that he expected it to be all over his pocket, etc but it wasn’t. He went to the hotel and saw a little tiny spot on his arm… checked his outer shirt – nothing. Checked his pants – a TINY spot on the back but nothing major. Checked his tee shirt – nothing. He said he was standing in front of the mirror in his underwear when he saw it ALL over his back, the main concentration of it being where his lower back met his ass. His observation was that it looked like bizarre Rorschach test.

• There were three ladies sitting next to us, each with a sign that read one word of “SING ME SWEET”. When they were holding it up it felt sort of funny to me, since I was sitting next to Kelly. I told her that I felt like I should have a sign with an arrow to hold at the end, pointing at her. Or a sign to place before it that said, “twitter.com/”.

• The intro to ‘Angel’ included a story about how he ripped the chord progression directly from a Liz Phair song, and a few years after that, out came ‘Hey There, Delilah’ with an almost identical chord progression. Then, a couple of years later Matt played a show with Plain White T’s and one of the guys was a HUGE Matt fan and said that Matt was a major musical influence, etc. Halfway through the first verse of ‘Angel’, Matt forgot the words and said that he couldn’t get ‘Hey There, Delilah’ out of his head. He started the song over but lost it at the same spot. A girl in the front row called out the lyrics so Matt brought her up on stage to sing with him! They stood back to back (“like Bon Jovi” and she sang the song with him. Her name was Shannon and she was adorable!

• “I get my hair cut on occasion so I read the People magazine.” Matt went on to tell us how he’d read an article that Jennifer Love Hewitt had written a book. He said something mildly insulting about her and the crowd reacted fairly strongly, prompting Matt to ask if she was from Iowa and then note, “She could be from Mars for all I care!”. There were a couple of ADORABLE little girls (in homemade Matt shirts!) in the front row so Matt tried to find a G-rated way to talk about JLJ vajazzling. “You know how you might bedazzle a jacket? And you know how men have one kind of jacket? Well, she bedazzled her other kind of jacket.”

• Matt played a SUPER cute new song about living under the sea. My favorite line was something like, “I’m tired of always getting even so let’s get odd, odd baby.”. It was so much fun to hear new Matt but this jackass a few seats away from me decided it would be a good time to start clapping to the beat. To a solo, acoustic song he’d never heard. And no one started it up with him but he DIDN’T stop.

• Matt said that this was their 3rd show in 3 nights so they were both pretty hoarse. Personally, I like that! But towards the end of the night Matt took over the mic since Aaron sounded “like Justin Bieber going through puberty”. It was at this point that he sang ‘Detroit Waves’. Totally solo acoustic. I turned to Kelly and said, “I just got irrationally excited!” because I DID!

• Of course the encore opened with ‘Come On Get Higher’. Prior to the song, Matt was talking about how his dad still calls every time he hears it. He did an impression of his dad which sounded like a 75-year old smoker, born and raised in Boston. “I heard it at the supermarket and Dee heard it at the club.” Aaron chimed in with an identical impression (I didn’t know Matt and Aaron were from the same town! Was Matt kidding or is that true?) saying, “I had to turn around and tell someone. The clerk at Home Depot was very impressed.”

• The encore went from 2-3 songs to 6, as Matt kept asking if he could play one or two more. (What are we going to say?! No?!) His second to last song was ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ and Matt gave us a little background into how hair metal made him feel how punk must have made kids feel in their day. He said it broke him out of his “suburban malaise”. He also said (and I completely agree) that if anyone else had written this song it would’ve been taken seriously but because it was Bret Michaels and he wore tight pants and sang in Poison, it got laughed off. The crowd was SILENT during the verses and sang along softly during the chorus. This will sound so cheesy but I couldn’t help but send up a prayer for Bret as the crowd was singing his song.

• “So, I get on the Twitter… and a lot of you requested I play this song.” was how he introed ‘Wedding Dress’. This is one of my faves on Some Mad Hope so was stoked to hear it solo. His voice was giving out at the end “To have and to hold… oh… oh, oh oh.” – the “oh, oh, oh” was cracking but he was so intense the entire song, it just WORKED.

• His last song was ‘Suspended’, for which he unplugged completely and came to stand at the edge of the stage. He asked us to sing the “sun… shine” part. It reminded me so much of the House of Blues show we went to 3-4 years ago and I was just overwhelmed by how much I LOVE the fact that I’ve been seeing him live for 6 years and he is still the same funny, sweet, interactive, enchanting performer he was the first time I saw him. The last line he sang, “On your lips, on your lips, on your lips… I’m suspended.”

Overall the show was astounding, phenomenal, amazing, wonderful, perfect… whatever synonym for “mind blowing” you want to use. It was easily one of my top three concerts ever. This is a good thing… but also a very bad thing as Matt has no more tour dates scheduled!

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