I’ve found that usually when a ticket says ‘Doors at X Time,’ if you arrive earlier than that you’ll find yourself one of five people in line. Much to my surprise when I arrived 30 minutes prior to the doors opening for the Mat Kearney show on Thursday, I was met by a line wrapping around two blocks. Apparently, my ‘early arrival-front row at the show’ theory had been the thought process of most ticket holders. In reality, I should have expected it. The show, which took place at Showbox at the Market, sold out early and, as I found out after watching Mat Kearney perform, for good reason.
Opening for Kearney was LA’s Robert Francis. As painful as it was to listen to, it was even more painful to witness. While he is undeniably gifted when it comes to guitar, his voice and lyrics didn’t translate. More a story teller or a poet than a singer, Francis had no connection to the crowd and overall his set was a miserable one to listen to.
When headliner Mat Kearney came on stage, the room changed.Â ExcitementÂ seemed to drip out of everyone present in the packed house. When he opened with ‘Fire and Rain,’it set the night up to be a memorable one. Every single song he performed had the crowd singing and dancing along with him. Kearney (pronounced,Â as he told us during his set, “Carney”) instantly won every person at the Showbox over and if you weren’t a fan before, by the end of his second song ‘Young, Dumb, and in Love,’ you probably were.
Kearney is truly one of the mostÂ charismaticÂ performers I’ve ever seen, and this was hands down the most memorable show I’ve been to in quite a while. He’s the kind of performer whose live shows I look forward to; he tells storiesÂ in betweenÂ stories,Â constantlyÂ cracks jokes, and is full of surprises that most performers wouldn’t dare attempt. For instance, how many performers leave the stage mid-way through one of their hits (‘Runaway Car’) and walk through theÂ entire venue, never missing a word in the song? Kearney traversed through the main floor, up into the bar- walking on tables and getting his butt grabbed as he went, and then came back to the stage to finish the song. And if that doesn’t impress you, how many performers would pull a random member of the audience up on stage to play along side them? Kearney did a call out for a drummer to accompany him and his band for ‘All I Have’ and was answered by a 20-something guy named Lance. Who, as it needs to be noted, nailed it.
One thing is for certain, other than his talent, Kearney knows how to cater to a crowd. During ‘Undeniable’ he broke into a special verse, seemingly made up on the spot, about Seattle. References to The Mariners, Capitol Hill, UW, Coffee, and of course Shawn Kemp and the Sonics, made the crowd fall even more in love with him and his show than they were before.
For his encore, he began with ‘Rochester’ off his newest release, Young Love. ‘Rochester’ is a slower, very personal and emotionally charged, song about his father’s life and hearing the story behind the song made the performance that much more powerful. His final song of the night was the hit ‘Hey Momma’ also from Young Love. Ending the night the same way he started it, getting the crowd dancing, was a perfect way to finish.
Mat Kearney at the Showbox blew me out of the water. From beginning to end, it was full of familiar songs that were even better live than on his record. If you have the chance, and enjoy indie-pop even the littlest bit, go see him. Now.