New Brunswick-based folk and blues musician Matt Andersen knows how to work a crowd.
On Feb. 11, Andersen played a sold-out show at Saskatoon’s Broadway Theatre as part of the tour to promote his new album, Weightless.
During his nearly two hour set, Andersen — who performed without a backing band — displayed his unique range of musical talents, ranging from Maritime flavored folk to blues-infused rock-and-roll. Andersen maintained a high energy level the entire time and had the crowd singing and clapping along with the set’s more rousing numbers.
The highlight of Andersen’s set list was undoubtedly his original blues songs. Adding to a substantial songwriting ability, his soulful guitar playing and impressive vocal range made for a powerful experience. Andersen sings and plays the blues well enough that he may convince some people he sold his soul to the devil — or so the old blues legend goes — for such talent.
During blues numbers, Andersen showcased his guitar chops through extended solos. Andersen proved that he can rock a room as well as anyone while playing mostly acoustic guitar. One such solo incorporated melodies from “Smoke on the Water” and “Duelling Banjos,” while another included the Pink Panther theme song.
Andersen’s folk songs were impressive in their own right. Despite their similar musical roots, folk and blues have diverged into unique genres and it’s a treat to see a single musician who excels in both. Eastern Canada has a long history of producing impressive folk musicians, including Stompin’ Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil, and Andersen is no exception.
“Alberta Gold,” a new song from Weightless, is an ode to Andersen’s friends — and the thousands of Easterners — who have moved from the Maritimes to western Canada in search of work. Andersen also performed with opening act David Myles, including “So Easy,” a heartfelt duet reflecting on the materialistic envy that is prevalent in modern society.
In addition to being a talented musician, Andersen is a substantial showman. Having played over 200 live shows in 2013 alone, he’s had a lot of practice.
Crowd participation was a big part of his live show especially when it came to the set’s encore, which was also performed with Myles.
Andersen had the women in the audience sing one vocal melody while the men sang another. At the same time, Andersen and Myles sang and played a gospel song that ended in the second standing ovation of the night.
Opening act Myles was impressive in his own right. Currently nominated for a Juno award for his song “Inner Ninja” with Nova Scotian rapper Classified, Myles showed that he has a diverse range of talents in his own right. Mixing 1950s-style rock-and-roll with folk, hip hop and hilarious personal anecdotes, Myles was a highlight as Andersen’s opener.
Overall, the evening was an impressive performance that bodes well for the East coast music scene in Canada. The fact that the crowd was full of people who had seen Andersen before and returned to see him again speaks volumes about his talent and showmanship.
Andersen is not a live show to be missed.
Photo: Jordan Dumba/Photo Editor