Mat Kearney – Jaqua Concert Hall, Eugene, OR
Words by Bones
Mat Kearney’s sold out show in Eugene Oregon at the Shedd Institute’s Jaqua Concert Hall was an Intimate Performance. In fact, in many ways it felt like you were watching a family friend entertain you for a couple hours. A family friend who had put his 10,000 hours in and mastered his craft.
The show started with the opener, Eli Teplin who (spoiler) then became Mat’s keyboards/backup singer. Eli ran threw a handful of songs he wrote with topics ranging from the Greek Isle of Santorini, water beds for eyes and monkeys in trees. He balanced a whimsical approach with real emotion and had a young Paul Simon/Billy Joel feel. It will be interesting to see where he takes his talents from here.
It was now time for the main event. Mat walked on stage and kicked into “City of Black And White”. This wasn’t the same arrangement as the song off his 2009 album with the same name, in fact this tour was to highlight the 10 year anniversary of City of Black and White with some of the songs rearranged and acoustically performed.
This new version of “City of Black and White” sounded more mature and soothing, with an aquatic floating-on-air feeling. Kearney then strummed threw “Fire & Rain”, “Count On Me”, and “Kings & Queens”. He would toss in ‘Eugene’ and ‘Oregon’ references that would spark the crowd into cheers and smiles. He managed to create a feeling like we all belonged.
A couple things at this point began to stand out. No one was standing, that is, except Mat which immediately felt reminiscent of a 1990’s MTV unplugged performance. This made the show feel less like a concert that you participated in and more like a performance you watched, with the crowd energy slowly boiling over with no place to go.
Also, it became apparent by the third song that Mat didn’t want cell phones in the air and the ushers enforced this with laser focus. A fact that Andrew, the photographer had a hard time dealing with. By enforcing this rule it forced the crowd to be in the moment and live in real time, not behind a screen. You really started noticing the performance itself and the stifled energy, still bubbling inevitably to a climax. This struck me as what makes records so powerful. There is a place for streaming and downloading but it can never replace the feeling of vinyl and the presence that it brings. The raw energy that is palpable in records is what you felt with Kearney’s performance.
Mat sang a few more of his hits, stopping between songs to tell stories, mostly with him as the punch line. As the night rounded to its end, Mat started “Hey Mama”. The crowd finally had enough and people slowly started to stand and dance. The energy finally released and filled the room. When he ended with his ode to Oregon, Coming Home; that was it. Everyone was on their feet cheering, singing and releasing their pent up energy of the night.
As Mat walked off the stage the crowd cheered as one community coming together. Kearney returned to the stage and asked the crowd to sit and relax. As the eruption of energy released, Mat took time to thank the crowd again and this time his emotions began to come to the full front. Many times Mat became visibly overcome with feelings, giving a raw and real performance of “Rochester”, a song honoring a boy’s dad. If you haven’t heard this song, you really should. It speaks to the heart of what makes us who we are.
The night was finished with Mat’s hit “Nothing Left to Lose”. This performance was a powerful end to an emotional night. A way a local boy could show how much he thanks, loves and cares about his art and his town. A fantastical intimate performance.
(Full image set below)