Tuesday, 21 September 2010

357 MATTHEW SWEET, Santa Cruz, Ether, London LA2, Wednesday 13 August 1997

Amazingly, I don't know anyone else who likes Matthew Sweet, so I was oop the Smoke on my own for this one! Despite heavy M4 traffic caused by an accident, I still got there at 7.45, in time for the first band. Neither snow nor rain etc... not that there was any of that, as today was a scorcher!

Anyway, said first band, Ether, played to a sparse crowd at 7.45, but impressed with good old fashioned tunes and mod-ish rock sensibilities, not unlike a lighter You Am I. Certainly better than main support Santa Cruz, who may be the missing link between baggy and Goth; Gaggy? Bath? The bedraggled vocalist probably needed one of the latter, as his Jim Morrison fixation probably extended to the Lizard King's "irregular" personal hygiene, by the looks of things!

By this time, the place was heaving, sweaty and close to a sell-out. I took a vantage point down the front as Matthew came on at 9.40, accompanied, amazingly enough, by Ric Menck and Paul Chastain of Velvet Crush as part of his 5-man band! I went for it as Matthew, a little larger than expected (far be it from me to suggest that he ate the pies J Mascis left!), started with "Come To California", a supreme opener. A fantastic set of his pure pop goodies followed, sounding bigger, louder, faster and generally taking flight "live". Drawing mainly from current "Blue Sky On Mars" CD, which is seriously growing on me, Matthew's excellently crafted, occasional Byrds-tinged, soaring and spangling College rock songs were full-on, supremely embellished by his unique, high and slightly nasal lilt. I rocked out to a brilliant 1 1/2 hour set (plus encores) from a superb and dynamic performer, which could honestly have been twice as long and still would have been too short!

Highlights? Most of the set actually, but particularly a "Sick Of Myself" which featured about half a dozen false endings, and encores "I've Been Waiting" and an astonishing "Teenage Kicks"; meeting James from Silver Sun afterwards and telling him his LP was the "most played" on our recent Algarve holiday; and most of all, my asking the notoriously plane-phobic Matthew how his flight from the States was, and getting the response, "how was the flight? The flight was a boat!" Classic!

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