Saturday, November 22, 2008

Live At The Majestic.

Live. Acoustic. Bent.

Three words that I hoped for...and got.

As my marathon run of a concert calendar year winds down, with one or two more options still possible during December, I went to see Matt Nathanson on Wednesday night in a little 350-capacity theatre in Madison called the Majestic, and he didn't disappoint. (I'm not sure it's even possible that he could. Ever.)

"Bent" is a song on Nathanson's live disc, At The Point, (the studio version is also on Beneath These Fireworks, but I like the live version better) and when we saw him at the same venue in October 2007, it wasn't on his set list. The show was still incredible, but I would've liked to have heard "Bent."

Wednesday, I got to. He played with his full band, but about halfway through the show, he sent them off stage to give them a bit of a break and play a few acoustic songs...and brought out his 12-string guitar.

He went into a bit of a monologue about electing a new president and how awesome that was (and since there are maybe four conservatives in all of Madison, that went over pretty well with the crowd), and he stood on the stage alone, and slowly and quietly let the words slide out from "In A Big Country," by Big Country:

"...but I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime.
In a big country dreams stay with you
like a lover's voice fires the mountainside.
Stay alive...
...stay alive."

After everybody applauded, I turned to my buddy and said something like, "He should really play 'Bent.'" And um...guess what came next?

Nathanson can be so sarcastic and sharp and funny and self-deprecating during his between-song banter, and then pour everything he's got into his songs, slow or fast. You come away from one of his shows feeling like you just spent a couple hours with an old friend.

Well...most of the crowd does, anyway. One of the audience members, who happened to be directly to my right and talking loudly among his group for the entire show, kept yelling out a song he wanted to hear every time there was a near-silent moment, and finally Nathanson said, without even looking up from his mic, "After a certain number of times of yelling the same song, it's time to give it up. You've lost this round, sir, I'm not going to play your song. Let's move on." And that shut him up for a little while, until the guy hurled back an insult by telling Nathanson he looked like he was from Dawson's Creek because he was wearing a sweater vest. I think only half of it made it up to the stage, though, because Nathanson just said, "ohhh, Dawson's Creek." And that was the end of that.

A bit later in the show, he gave other audience members a chance to suggest some songs for his set, by saying, "OK, what do you wanna hear? Yell some songs out." And after five seconds of everybody naming their songs at once, he replied, "Yeah, we're not gonna play any of those, but..."

As the last song of their set approached, Nathanson described the encore process to us, telling us that after the song was over, he was going to say something like, "That's it for us. Thanks, Madison, we're done! Take care of yourselves," and walk off stage like they're really done. But then he shared a secret, telling us that really...they were going to come back, because they had a couple more songs to play. "So it'd be best," he said, "that when I say, 'We're done,' you should all say, 'Noooo! Noooo!' and act like you really don't know we're coming back. And then cheer and clap like crazy because you want us to come back. But...we're really coming back. We're coming back whether you're here or not. So, like...if you all leave, we're still gonna come out and play two more songs."

I've never had anyone walk me through the steps of a successful band exit/encore re-entrance, complete with audience participation. But he did a fine job.

And you know what? They came back! And as he strapped his guitar on, Nathanson said, "We've never successfully performed this song live,'re gonna try it and see how it goes."

And they belted out AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long," from start to finish. And the crowd of three hundred fifty felt and sounded more like thirty-five hundred! Let's just say it was a success, and even Nathanson looked surprised as he surveyed the small crowd after it was over.

Never expected to hear that from him. Although during the October 2007 show he ventured into snippets of The Cure, and Hanson (yes, "Mmm Bop.").

If I don't see another show this year, it was a phenomenal end cap to 2008.

"If I bent like you said was best,
would that change a thing?
If I spent myself...or what's left
Would you still leave me here?

You're so sorry about it all
Now that it's over...
Should I thank you for that dear?
You're so sorry about it all...
And I hope you'll always be."
—Matt Nathanson, Bent


  1. I don't know this song or even the artist, but the word "bent" is working for me. I'm going to ease it into my conversations, but I can't decide if I should say "bent" when I mean something is cool, or if I should use it to mean uncool. Maybe it could go both ways like "aloha."

    Is bent already a word that people use and I just don't know it? Have I missed another trend like the whole long, pointy-toe thing?

    The concert sounds like it was realy bent, but what was up with that bent guy sitting next to you?

  2. Man, I'm jealous. I wish I could have been able to see him live! Glad you had fun, and glad you got to hear your song.

  3. SBW..."Bent" sounds like a pretty flexible word to me.


    Mrs. White...You'll get your chance, I promise. And you will love it!!