Review: Matthew E. White Plays Out To Lunch

DSC_3257chAh Voodoo. It’s one of those venues where, if a lady pushes past you, it has the effect that your upper body knocks sharply sideways into your neighbour’s pint, while your boots remain stuck hard to the floor, pointing front. He was gracious, she was pished, I was stuck.

It was a better class of problem though. Matthew E. White and band were grooving through “Rock & Roll is Cold“. My neighbour was in the zone; in fact most of the room was in the zone. White was say, 3/4s through his gig offering beauties from his last album Fresh Blood, some glorious covers, and the odd reminder of his 2012 release Big Inner.

Support came in the form of Donegal singer Chanele McGuinness, who started with self-writ “Already Gone” from last summer’s EP of the same name. She has one of those sweet, deceptively strong voices. Despite the smoke machine getting a bit over zealous on it, she hit those high notes easily. Very easy on the ear, and as the set progressed it became obvious that she was quite at home on stage. Chatting between songs, fessing up to playing in the wrong key, that sort of thing. She recently supported American singer Natalie Prass on her European and UK tour (which actually explains the connection – Prass released her self-titled 2015 album through White’s record label Spacebomb). A couple of years ago McGuinness won RTÉ Radio 1’s Emerging Talent Contest. It will be interesting to see what’s next for the Donegal chanteuse.

I need to fess up too. I hardly saw a bloody thing. I was nose-to-shoulder blade with just about every fecker in the room. Although my occasional 5-minute views of White’s Jesus-hippy hair and specs between the bobbing bloke and the pillar did suffice.

Vision” gave us his grooved croon and some Badly Drawn Boy guitar keeping it happy. I heard noises that sounded like a harp, but couldn’t see who or what that was. Ah well, that just left me no choice but to step back and enjoy it. “Nobody in the world is better than us”, it all ended with big funky drums and a crowd heaving to show their appreciation. He half spoke the words in “Fruit Trees” and the guitar laden other world it set up pushed this song towards psychedelic folk. Then “Steady Pace” was happy and cool harmonied.

Life became easier at one point because someone on stage, it may have been bassist Cameron Ralston, told us we weren’t “packed in enough”. As he pointed to a space in front of the stage, the crowd moved forward to accommodate. With the space changing I gained a 10 minute view of White’s beardy coolness while they gave us “Big Love” from Big Inner, which had a big Emerson, Lake & Palmer beat thumping through it, and a very sudden ending.

Apparently they’d recently played in an arts centre, where everyone was really quiet, which is cool but a bit square. However, tonight they were in Voodoo and it suited them down to the ground. “We don’t play this cover usually, but in a place like this where it’s a little loose …” then they only gave us “White Light”. It may have been the longest number in the set. It was rockin’. And funky. Contorted, loaded with cool, and pretty mesmerising. And later on, Neil Young’s “Are You Ready For The Country” was a monumental offering to the God of country rock. Quality.

They gave us the encore without leaving the stage, because they would only end up in the middle of the sweaty crowd if they did. They had us join in on the “ya ya ya ya ya” in “Feeling Good Is Good Enough“, and it was the sort of eyes closed, loud guitar, singing full-on ending that the gig deserved. OK, everybody knows that rock and roll is cold, but sometimes, just now and again, it does yer soul some good. Photos Gerry McNally, words Cara Gibney