Ottawa NAC’s imperial Southam Hall, was turned into a full-fledged rock stadium on Thursday night, with nearly sold-out performances by Matthew Good, and fellow Canadian supporting artist, Scott Helman.
Toronto’s fast-rising phenom, Scott Helman, captivated the audience earlier in the evening with a brief, but highly entertaining set, which featured his spirited pop/rock originals from his debut album, “Augusta” (Oct. 2014). Suited up with his acoustic guitar in hand, he was joined by guitarist, Callum Maudsley, and John Psihogios on drums…both enormously talented musicians in their own right. The dynamic trio produced a full-flavoured sound that instantly ignited the crowd, and kept the energy level on high throughout the course of the set.
Helman felt completely at ease with the audience, and told his stories behind every song, which began with the lively, rock-edged, “Tikka”, and ended with award-winning single, “Bungalow”. He generated a clear love from the audience, who at one point, flooded the room with the light from their cell phones held high during, “Machine”, a touching piece about embracing one’s individuality.
At the tender age of 20, Helman is no stranger to the songwriting stage. Writing and performing since the age of 12, he showed his prowess as a singer and guitarist, with an array of well-written compositions that exuded vibrancy, a depth of heartfelt topics, and a maturity well beyond his years.
Featured Canadian artist, Matthew Good, took us on a rollercoaster ride of songs from as far back as the “Underdogs” (1997) album, in his pre-solo days with the Matthew Good Band. His unique, emotionally charged material has long been revered by legions of fans for the last 20 years, and Thursday night’s performance certainly demonstrated that fact in spades. Currently on a cross-country tour in support of his latest release, “Chaotic Neutral” (Oct. 2015), Good was joined onstage by amazingly seasoned musicians, Stu Cameron (lead guitar), Bones Hillman (bass/vocals), and Blake Manning (drums/vocals/guitar).
Most of the night’s performance was dedicated to the new record, and wasted no time as it began with the hard-hitting, “No Liars”, followed by the album’s first
single, the powerfully lush, “All You Sons And Daughters”. “Kid Down The Well”, was hypnotic in its slow-motion drone of reverberating bass that gripped deep in the chest, along with Good’s signature trembling vibrato, and vocal harmonies by Manning that added to the song‘s haunting tone. It climbed into the first of some spectacular lead guitar fills by Cameron, before it wound its way through to end on a single hanging note. Similarly, “Cold Water” entranced the crowd in its sedating pendulum sway. Good put down the guitar for “Army Of Lions”, where he sang crouched in front of the crowd, and later, Manning would come out from behind the drums to play guitar on another atmospheric piece, “Los Alamos”.
The set was spaced out nicely with some crowd-pleasing selections from the past such as, “Alert Status Red” (White Light Rock & Roll Review – 2004),
“Everything Is Automatic” (Underdogs), and “Load Me Up” (Beautiful Midnight – 1999), which had the audience already on their feet early in the set. “Advertising On Police Cars” (The Audio Of Being – 2001), gripped me with its pretty chord progressions and moody edge, before it built into a majestic crescendo of gigantic drums and another ringing guitar solo. I also enjoyed Cameron’s lap steel guitar slide work on the beautiful, “Apparitions” (Underdogs), which generated applause before the song was over.
Good actively conversed with the crowd, who responded throughout the course of the evening in playful banter that seemed to reduce the massiveness of the hall into an intimate club atmosphere. They rose to their feet again with the set’s rock-heavy finale, “Weapon” (Avalanche – 2003), and remained so during the generous 4-song encore, which featured an impressive and rousing rendition of Kate Bush’s, “Cloudbusting” (Chaotic Neutral). The show came to a close with the epic hard/soft swells of “Giant” (Beautiful Midnight), after which Good waved his final goodbyes to the crowd, while the surge of applause continued, and his abandoned guitar lingered in the throes of feedback on the stand