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Scott Matthews Live

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Scott Matthews Live
St Marys Church, Chester
3 October, 2021

Just a couple of days ago my live review and photography work re-started (after a long 19 months when the arts were forced to hibernate) in Liverpool with the distinctive and wonderful singer/songwriter Martha Wainwright. The following Sunday night I thankfully, and conveniently, returned to home territory to witness a performance by folk fan-favoured Brit Scott Matthews at the bijou St Marys Performance Space (a former church) located in Chester city centre. It’s the perfect venue for singer/songwriters with its intimate feel and good acoustic characteristics.

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As soon as I arrived it became clear that Chester music-fans had taken the opportunity to return to live music as the place hummed with a chattering throng, primed and ready with beers to hand. The show opened with a folk singer/songwriter one could imagine at an amateur open-mic night, and not dressed-to-impress. But Charlie McKeon revealed something more during his brief set. My attention was initially grabbed by his delicate, classical styled, acoustic guitar picking which lengthily introduced each of the five songs performed. This was special and happily dominated every song. McKeon proved to be an easy and natural performer endowed with a strong sense of humour as he chatted with the audience.

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During the performance he picked up a sheet of paper and after a brief period of scrutiny and thought asked the audience if they would like to hear song about plums, a song without plums, or a musical song. The crowd loved it, finally being treated to a song about plums! The songs were pleasant, gently sung and openly appreciated by the audience. McKeon is a musician in love with his craft whose aim of entertaining on his own terms succeeded - one couldn’t ask for more.

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Scott Matthews

Scott Matthews is an English singer-songwriter from Wolverhampton, England. His first album PASSING STRANGER was released in 2006 on San Remo Records before being re-released on Island Records later in the year. Janice Long was the first of the BBC DJs to play his music. Soon, tracks from PASSING STRANGER were also being played by Mark Radcliffe and Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2. In April, Scott played sessions on BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music.

Matthews’ first single ‘Elusive’ was released in September. The single received much airplay from BBC Radio. Between 7-10 August, Lowe played ‘Elusive’ once each night as his chosen Single of the Week. Matthews also visited the station to perform this and other songs from the album in May and August 2006. In May 2007, he won the Ivor Novello Award for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically” for ‘Elusive’.

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Matthews has toured the UK extensively in support of his album and appeared in support of the Foo Fighters for their acoustic Skin and Bones concerts around the country in June 2006. Matthews’ second album ELSEWHERE was produced by Matthews and Gavin Monaghan and released on Island Records. His third album, WHAT THE NIGHT DELIVERS, was produced by Jon Cotton.

HOME PART 1 is the fourth studio release from Matthews. The album is the first to be recorded entirely by Matthews in his home studio. WHAT THE NIGHT DELIVERS features guest performances by double bassist Danny Thompson (whom Matthews met whilst performing in Joe Boyd’s stage production of WAY TO BLUE-THE SONGS OF NICK DRAKE) and regular contributing musicians, Sam Martin, Danny Keane and Scott’s brother, Darren Matthews who plays piano on two tracks; ‘The Clearing’ and ‘The Night is Young’.

The album was followed by HOME PART 2 in September 2016, released via Scott’s own label Shedio Records. Tracks include ‘Black Country Boy’, the title of which references the Black Country region of the West Midlands. The album was produced by Scott.

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Review

It’s unusual for me to review a live performance without having heard a single song from the act. But after 19 months of live music hunger it really didn’t matter. However, I did ascertain that Matthews is highly regarded as a singer/songwriter, favoured by both critics and the BBC. He’s also played alongside some musical greats. In sharp contrast to McKeon’s basic equipment, the stage was full of several upright guitars and electronic gear.

Matthews had just released his latest record called NEW SKIN which I have yet to hear so the opportunity to familiarise myself with new songs was welcome. Opening with the slightly older compositions of ‘Virginia’ and ‘Sunlight’ I was struck more by his powerful voice rather than the songs which were pleasant enough but nothing more. I was reminded how just one strong, acutely radio-friendly song can turn fortunes, and there are many examples including one of the most recent, Ed Sheeran.

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For the emotive ‘Eyes Wider Than Before’ Matthews dived into his regiment of guitars to pick what appeared to be a classical styled acoustic. Both playing and vocally the song was one of my picks of the night with its strong melody and lyrics: “Your eyes are wider than before/So little has changed/but your eyes now see much more.” ‘The Light’ followed and the first of his latest batch which arrived with laptop backing and a more bolder modern ballad style.

Matthews played just 4 new songs in a setlist that covered almost his whole back-catalogue. My favourites included the dreamy, electronic soundscape of ‘My Selfless Moon’ which also showcased his wide vocal range and soulful sound, and the more up-tempo ‘Our Time’ with its simple and direct lyrics. My final take on the show was that it offered a diverse range of moods and pace, enough to convince that Matthews is an accomplished and skilled performer. All that was missing was that one breakout tune mainstream enough to smash the airwaves. The audience loved it and so did I.

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Setlist

Virginia
Sunlight
Eyes Wider Than Before
The Light
Something Real
My Selfless Moon
Cinnamon
Mona
City Headache
Our Time
Intruders On Earth
Passing Stranger

New Skin
Beautiful Boy

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