Star rating 7/10
Matthew E White is a singer with a silky smooth voice, long hair and a long beard, and has created quite a stir since he released his debut album Big Inner last year. Whilst his first live appearance in Manchester this week didn't quite match the slick production qualities of the album, it was impressive all the same.
He and his band hail from Richmond, Virginia, which he claims has a vibe similar to Manchester in terms of its community of musicians. He is rightly proud of the creation of the Spacebomb collective record label, with its aim to promote the rich diversity of music within that community. His own style is hard to define, with his soulful gentle voice producing a fusion of sounds encompassing country, rock, and gospel. His soothing music brings to mind comparisons with artists as wide ranging as Barry White (whom he resembles in name and crooning ability); Neil Young (whose Are You Ready For the Country he covered); and ZZ Top (whom he and his fellow guitarist did an amusing on stage impersonation of during Steady Pace) - so make of him what you will.
My favourite songs, both on the album and live, are One of these days and Big Love, both beautiful, soulful love songs; the latter sounding a touch more psychedelic when performed by the band. Gone Away is a hauntingly sad song about love, loss, and death, and Brazos is a gorgeous touching number about slavery, even though it may be a touch too evangelical for some British ears.
The four piece backing band were missing a member, Scott, who had been taken ill on tour, but whose treatment on our wonderful NHS was gratefully received and commented on by White. He is appreciative of his audience, polite and very talented. And if you were wondering, the E stands for Edgar, if he is telling the truth that is. But he seems like a pretty wholesome good guy, so I am inclined to believe him.