Thursday 25th May 2017
The Borderline, London
I'll start with a confession, with over thirty years of gig going under my belt, this is my first visit to The Borderline in the heart of London's West End. Within minutes of arriving I realise what I have been missing, a welcoming atmosphere and an intimate setting, perfect for a one man show such as this.
Support comes from William The Conqueror, or at least, for one night only, one third of them. Harry Harding takes the solo spotlight admitting that tonight his band will be replaced by his right foot on beat keeping duties. Looking like he has just parked his truck outside in Charing Cross Road, his thirty five minute acoustic set flies by, with songs of lost love and confessions to his kids. His last song 'Save It For Somebody Else' is dedicated to "a not very nice crowd in Bristol" from five years ago. A nice Bluesy, Folky feel to his playing, which sounds great in this compact little venue.
Twenty minutes later and with no introduction, the man we are all waiting for emerges from the side of stage black curtain, and with just a stool and acoustic guitar for company, proceeds to blow the crowd and this reviewer away. Matt Andersen opens with 'The Gift Of Life' from his latest album 'Honest Man'. The first thing that hits you is the power and quality of his voice and immediately you know this is going to be a special evening. No time for a chat just yet as it's straight into the uptempo 'Make You Stay' - this time highlighting the quality of musicianship with some great playing. Only two songs in and already the crowd are hanging on every note. It then becomes clear that Matt is also a good little storyteller as he explains the next tune 'Fool For You' is all about your best friends new girlfriend that nobody likes, apparently we all know someone like that. As you would imagine, it's a upbeat, fun song which has some Mississippi Blues thrown in for good measure.
Another song from the 'Honest Man' album, 'Quiet Company', a soft ballad with great guitar work, is up next and it's a pin drop moment, as the the audience takes in this quite beautiful song which highlights the tender side to Matt's usually powerhouse of a voice. Drawing comparisons between his native Canada's and our own mining industries in the UK, the title track from the 'Coal Mining Blues' album follows, another great and poignant song.
Although Mr. Andersen is not a household name (yet) here, he certainly has a good fan base, which is perfectly illustrated as the majority here know every word to 'I Lost My Way' from the 2014 album 'Weightless'. Now it's audience participation time, with Matt performing one of his personal favourites, Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready'. Gone is the Gospel element of the song in favour of simple guitar, with all the girls supplying the "ooohs", the guys the "aaahs", and one man on a stool who has everyone eating out of the palm of his hand.
The next two numbers are polar opposites 'My Last Day' with its frantic playing, big voice and big chorus, followed by the gentle 'In A Crowded Room' with its intricate Bluesy opening and soft vocals, both songs act as a perfect showcase for this man's talent. My personal favourite song of the night is the Country feel of 'When My Angel Gets The Blues' from the 'Second Time Around' album. A terrific song, which given some airplay could be the song that sees Matt's career take off to the next level. Clearly enjoying himself, he even throws in some Jazz improv on 'Round & Round' another cracking song which sees the audience playing their part on backing vocals. The last song (but not really) is a slight contradiction in terms, a light hearted, Blues number, 'Cold Black Soul' is a great fun tune, which we are told is all about the hometown couple who, after getting hitched, the guy realises he has married the devil's bride, once again everyone knows all the words and sing along with gusto.
So the second and really last song of the night is a cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'I'm On Fire',another gentle song, perfectly suited here, which brings to an end a very quick but thoroughly enjoyable seventy five minutes. True to his word, within minutes of coming off stage, Matt can be found at the merchandise stand, chatting to everyone who has stayed to congratulate him on a great set. At which point, I became a bit of a fan boy myself, exchanging a few words, shaking the big mans hand and buying myself a CD. Matt Andersen is a guy that deserves all the success that must surely come his way. I highly recommend checking him out the next time he comes over here, especially if you are lucky enough to see him in this type of setting, he could well be your next favourite artist.