Last night I went along to see Australian singer-songwriter Matt Corby play a sell out concert at Wellington’s Opera House. Off the back of only three EPs, I headed along to the gig expecting a good, but unpolished, short set from an up-and-comer. I was so far off track. What I got instead was a nothing short of breathtaking musical experience. I’d be willing to put money on it: Matt Corby is going to be the next big thing. (Although I’m sure he already is in the minds of many – myself now included).
Last night it only took about 30 seconds of music for me to know I was in for a real treat. He first took to the stage on his own, picking up an acoustic guitar and picking the slow tune It’s Good to be Alone. He sang softly in the beginning but then, reflecting the true light and shade in each of his songs, he turned it up a notch, crooning the higher notes. It didn’t take long for him to take control of the crowd who whispered in amazement during the softer parts of the song, only to explode each time he hit a perfect falsetto note without fault.
Next up he shuffled to the piano and was joined by his five-piece band to bring to life soul ballad Made of Stone in a powerful burst of intensity. At this point I became thrilled I’d got a seat in the gods of the theatre – this is a band it pays to have a good view of. The six of them on stage would have been entertainment enough if you couldn’t even hear the music; they showcased the brilliance often lost in a backing band for a solo artist. Not only did they provide a great base, but they added to it with brilliant harmonies, an obvious understanding and appreciation for the music, and a heart-warming enthusiasm. Corby also did everything in his power to ensure they were as much a part of the show as he; and for that he deserves credit.
He went on to play perfectly executed versions of radio hits Resolution and Brother to which the crowd stamped their feet and sang along to every word. The band looked to be loving every minute of the big hits. It was hilarious watching them flock around shared drum kits smashing out the thunderous beats with wooden spoons of all things.
Each song showcased a different skill of Corby’s. Whether it be an electric guitar heavy, blues-sounding jam resembling Jeff Buckley, the acoustic guitar strong, feet tapping, folk-sounding numbers echoing a bit of Mumford and Sons, or the gentle but bone-chilling piano solos in which the silence between notes was as haunting as the high notes hit. Covers of the Black Keys hit Lonely Boy and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Almost Cut My Hair were fresh sounding, fun and a reflection of his musical influences.
A real high point was the introduction of new song Trick of the Light. This track has a blues and jazz-sounding base, catchy rhyming lyrics, funky guitar picking and clever use of tempo. Only two bars in, everyone in the crowd was bopping in their seats and giving the person next to them the nod of approval. This song will be a hit. That was made even more clear when it slowed to a halt, only for Corby to bring out the loop pedal and layer a fantastic combination of beat-boxing, harmonising and guitar riffs before the band brought it to full force in a power finale.
I think even if he couldn’t sing, Corby would still have a loyal fan base. The crowds of girls screaming ‘I LOVE YOU’ during every song break tells you he’s rather easy on the eyes. He strolled on stage looking completely at home in his bare feet, rolled up jeans and t-shirt, his glorious curly locks cover half his face, perfectly positioned for the effortless but effective hair flick he performs as he rips out each wailing high note.
He had natural stage presence and did incredibly well dealing light-heartedly with some intoxicated audience members who made an embarrassing spectacle of themselves shouting out crude comments every chance they got.
This show proved to me that Matt Corby is a brilliant artist on every level. Watch him closely; this lad is going to be a name we hear a lot more of in times to come.
If you’re not up to play with this new star, check out this live studio version of ‘Made In Stone’