I’m not used to feeling conflicted after a concert.
I’m used to feeling conflicted about when to decorate for Christmas. Do I listen to my inner choir of carolers singing, “Deck the Halls As Soon As Humanly Possible?” Or do I hold fast to reason and wait until after Thanksgiving? I’m used to feeling conflicted about cookies. Do I give in to my innermost desire and eat every cookie in a half-mile radius? Or do I continue to remind myself that a person can’t exist on a diet of cookies alone?
I’m not used to feeling conflicted after a concert. When I go to a concert, I’m deciding to spend hard-earned money, and a chunk of time carved out of my day, with one of my favorite musicians. I’m seeing them in concert because I know in my heart it will be worth it. And, really, it almost always is. Yet, after seeing Matt Nathanson perform in Chicago, I’m conflicted. I’m happy and sad and frustrated all at the same time.
I am a lover of 99.9 percent of the shows I’ve been to. Green Day kicked ass live when I saw them a dozen years ago. Bush, Tim McGraw, Jimmy Eat World rocked it. The Barenaked Ladies were amazing. Incubus, Elton John, and Brandi Carlile were incredible. I went to see Dave Matthews Band instead of attending my senior prom, which was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions of my young life. My favorite shows ever? Butch Walker, Keith Urban, Sugarland, Bon Jovi, Will Hoge and needtobreathe.
The musicians I love typically make me fall in love with them even more when I see them live. And Matt provided some amazing moments that I’m so thankful I experienced. First of all, he sounds incredible live. His voice is strong and clear, his band is talented, and together, they sound really big, crisp and wonderful. Additionally, it was ah-mazing to hear Car Crash and Bulletproof Weeks live. I love those songs, and he delivered beautiful renditions of these. But, Matt broke my music-loving heart, because he committed the 3 cardinal concert sins:
1) He played a short set.
2) He let his ego overtake the stage and overpower the performance.
3) He bashed another musician.
1) It’s rare I’ve seen anyone play less than an hour and a half. In fact, most every headliner I’ve seen plays close to two hours. At The Rave in Milwaukee recently, Will Hoge played an energetic set that lasted nearly two and a half hours and left my feet sore and my throat sore and my heart filled to bursting. Flash forward to The Riveria in Chicago.
Because of terrible traffic issues caused by a nearby fire, we got to Matt Nathanson’s show after his set had already started. I was a bit surprised he’d already started, because we arrived at 9; but based on his comments, he had already played one or two songs before we got there. He ultimately went on to play for about an hour more, wrapping up one of the shortest sets I’ve ever seen. He then ended what had turned out to be a pretty predictable set with an equally predictable two-song encore of his two biggest commercial hits: Faster and Come On Get Higher.
2) And then, there was his ego. Matt’s ego ballooned every time he told another witty little anecdote that was intended to be endearing. He talked nearly as much as he played. And, to be fair, I think that’s what a lot of the audience came for. I guess it’s part of his appeal for many. He’s cute, he’s goofy, he writes coffeehouse ballads girls love, and he tells lots of jokes that are intended to make him seem relatable and fun and like someone you’d want to have a beer with. I get that. But that’s not why I go to concerts. I go to hear music until my eardrums are vibrating and my toes are going numb and my face feels like it’s going to break from smiling and shouting and singing.
3) Matt made me the saddest, I think, when he made a jab at another band. Not just any band, mind you, but Bon-Freakin’-Jovi. Having seen Bon Jovi in concert three times, I can tell you, they’re stellar musicians and performers. Matt was prefacing a song with a long-winded intro – which turned out to be a common practice of his – about how he wrote the song as an homage to up-by-your-bootstraps, young, star-crossed lovers a-la Bruce Springsteen, not to be confused with his lesser musical compatriots from New Jersey, Bon Jovi. He posited that Bon Jovi has two good songs and that the band really just isn’t all that great in comparison to The Boss. No matter your personal opinion, I’m not quite sure what the point of this statement was. You don’t talk shit about other musicians. You just don’t. It makes you look small and petty. And really, nobody cares about your opinion.
And I’m sure Matt doesn’t care about my opinion. But while I heard some songs I love and experienced a few moments of musical bliss, I was mostly just let down. It’s safe to say, I won’t be going out of my way to see Matt Nathanson again, since he didn’t go out of his way for me.