Matthew Good Live At Massey Hall: Review

Matthew Good

“Hello Time Bomb” was at the top of MuchMusic’s charts when I tried to request it during a phone in request hour back in Kelowna.  I was working an extra long shift at the Uptown Cinema Centre, and wanted to hear the new Matthew Good Band track.  The DJ at The Lizard, which at that point was what passed for the alternative rock station, had never heard of the song.  He offered to play “Crash” by The Dave Matthews Band.

The Matthew Good Band was fast becoming one of my favorite bands, and since they toured British Columbia a lot more than U2 and charged a lot less for tickets I ended up going to a lot of shows.  At that point I’d already seen them at EdgeFest in Edmonton and since then I’ve seen the band and Matthew Good solo nearly twenty times.  My first time at the Commodore Ballroom was to see one of the band’s five shows that they played over the holidays between the release of Beautiful Midnight and The Audio of Being.  I’ve been to Kamloops and Penticton far more than I’d like simply to catch a show.

So Tuesday’s release of Matthew Good’s Live At Massey Hall album was an obvious buy for me.

Matthew Good

Having such a compulsive need to see as many Matt Good live shows as I could, I had always been a strong believer in the need for him to release a live album.  One of the first things I had done when I had discovered the usefulness of Napster was to seek out bootlegged live songs.  The best of which were a handful of tracks that had been recorded in Germany, with only a little too much treble.

With all of my favorite artists I’ve always wanted a full Pearl Jam like live recording release.  These days all shows go through a mixing board of some kind, and attaching basic recording equipment to that would allow for a release of a live album for every concert performed. 

The Vancouver native didn’t go that far with his first live release, instead opting to focus on a single show at Toronto’s famed Massey Hall this past May [mg].  It’s traditional but Good’s promotion of the release almost exclusively through his website and iTunes could be the first step to a Radiohead / Nine Inch Nails like movement away from a traditional record label.  That the album is already at the top of the charts on the Canadian iTunes store and doing well in the States is  sign that maybe Good doesn’t need a label anymore.

I’ve spoken enough already about what I had hoped for, and what the future might hold.  The nitty gritty of a review should of course be about the record in question.  As it stands the album released on iTunes is just the first disc in a two disc set.  Recorded during Good’s return to full band touring after a few years of doing stripped down solo acoustic shows, the album focuses largely on his newer material with only “Hello Time Bomb” and “Load Me Up” surviving from the Matthew Good Band days.  (More MGB tracks will be on side two).

Matthew Good

Having caught the Vancouver show on this tour, one of two of his shows I caught this year along with a cross boarder trip to Seattle for one of the acoustic dates, the tone is familiar.  Returning to a full band arrangement seems to have put a new burst of energy into some of the tracks, and while there’s a bit too much musical noodling at times we’re not talking about a Grateful Dead style jam session. 

Acoustic tracks will be part of the second disc, and were a large component of the In A Comabest of album from a few years ago, but I’d have almost preferred a release from one of his acoustic shows.  Still that’s complaining about what the album’s not, as opposed to focusing on what it is.  Good and backing band are tight and this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to the definitive live collection from his career.  It stands up well against other arstis’ live releases, and if it lacks the courage of Pearl Jam’s “release everything ever” philosophy then it’s worth noting that so does every other act in the world who aren’t Pearl Jam.

At the end of the day this disc isn’t going to convince anyone whose not already a Matthew Good fan to become one.  I think anyone cautious of really giving him a chance because of the radio hits like “Hello Time Bomb” should still check out his solo work like Hospital Music, but like a best of album this is mostly a repackaging of what’s come before.

It’s still a worthy purchase for any fan.  Anyone whose deep into his catalogue will have a few tracks they would have liked to have seen.  My all time favorite song of his is “Suburbia” and it’s nowhere to be seen, it’s also a fucking fantastic song live.  Thankfully it does have “Black Helicopter” his best track since.

I’m still going to see him live as long as he’s within driving distance, but to hold me over through the lean months when Matthew Good isn’t on the road I know have something to hold me over.  Matthew Good Live at Massey Hall is the methadone for my live concert habit.

All photos by Jeffery Simpson.

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