Music Reviews — 31 October 2013
Matt Nathanson Stirs Up Halloween at Terminal 5

Matt Nathanson

The Last of the Great Pretenders Tour
A Concert Review
Terminal 5, New York, NY
October 30, 2013

Matt Nathanson is a t-shirt and jeans guy. It was perhaps only fitting that on the night before Halloween, while much of the Terminal 5 crowd was donning a variety of costumes, Nathanson emerged with his acoustic guitar, self-assured as ever in a black t-shirt, jeans and boots. His 17 song set was driven by two decades of creating his blend of soft-pop meets folk rock music, leading his three bandmates through an interactive show filled with fan banter, jabs at relationships, and a vocal sound all his own, paced by his alternating acoustic and electric guitars.

Following the set of show opener Joshua Radin, Nathanson’s stage backdrop perfectly suited his performance. The massive banner displayed his name plainly above a bridge near a beachfront setting with cupid’s bow carelessly dumped into the nearby sand, appropriately. Nathanson briefly greeted the crowd before launching into “Mission Bells,” the first single from his 2013 release “The Last of the Great Pretenders.” Looking completely comfortable up on stage, the singer/songwriter would often interact with his audience, talking about things from sex and relationships to 50 year old testicles as the show progressed. The fans to their credit, reveled in each and every one of Nathanson’s diatribes, often laughing along with his quips.

Purposefully, the frontman’s set played like a roller coaster ride- mellow for the most part with the ebbs and flows of ballads and high octane tracks filled in. Tracks like “Run,” written with Sugarland and “Kill the Lights” proved raucous alternatives to slower cuts like “Sunday New York Times” and the poignant “Bulletproof Weeks,” which admittedly used to choke Nathanson up before each performance. Added to the setlist because he was effectively bullied to play it on social media, the entire crowd was hushed as the singer performed acoustically and by himself on stage. “Room at the End of the World” meanwhile built into a fun tease of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” and a breakdown into Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” but it was “Wedding Dress” that captivated us most, with a fast paced rock breakdown that would make anyone in the crowd bang their head feverishly.

Unsurprisingly, Nathanson’s most well known songs received the biggest response from a mostly stoic Terminal 5 crowd. Singles like “Car Crash” and show closer “Come On Get Higher” were particularly rousing renditions, but the show’s highlight was the frontman’s open honesty when interacting with the crowd- much of which was funny, but was often revealing. Of his two songs performed based around Manhattan, he remarked- “This is a song about your fair city. I’ve got a lot of songs about New York. Not as many as Lou Reed, but I’ve got three. We’re not fucking replacing greatness with greatness these days, so when we lose one, it’s fucking brutal.” It’s his genuine personality that a certain indescribable honesty that connects Nathanson to his many fans, who on this night, couldn’t get enough of his schtick.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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