Mat Kearney at First Ave, 11/20/2011

Mat Kearney with Leagues
November 20, 2011
First Ave.

As music listeners, we like to split our music into two distinct groups: radio-friendly pop and everything else. But Eugene, Oregon native, Mat Kearney can easily fall into both camps.

Kearney seems to like Minnesota a whole lot. He made Minneapolis the last night of this tour, having just recently opened for Owl City this past June. At the time, I thought it was an odd combination (musically) for the stage, but Kearney sure did his homework, and he cultivated an audience his last go-round -- leading to a sold out show at First Ave.

With a full house, Kearney was able to play a set that included hits from three of his full-lengths, opening with the energy-inducing "Fire and Rain" (not to be confused with James Taylor's hit). Most people may not know Mat Kearney by name, but have heard at least one of his songs.

A third of the way into the set, Kearney performed "Girl America," a piece that he doesn't often perform live, which included a pleasant cover of Adele's "Chasing Pavements" in the middle of the song. On "Chicago," he was able to strip down to his acoustic guitar and let his voice take center stage. Since I could tell the crowd was getting a little restless, I was a little confused that he followed "Chicago" with another slow piece that once again doesn't get much stage time, "Where We Gonna Go From Here." Turns out it was only to transition into "Here We Go" -- a song talking about transitions in life. 

On "Runaway Car," Kearney performed sans guitar, prepping to enter the crowd with his mic -- just as he did for the Owl City show. Back on stage, he claimed that, "Someone grabbed my butt while I was out in the crowd," which made me wonder if his stage banter is scripted -- since it was the exact same thing he said the last time he was in town. But he did add "...again," so perhaps it's not.

For his last song in his regular set, Kearney balanced out "Undeniable" with a freestyle rap -- signature for him -- about Minnesota, soliciting cheers from an audience that was ready to cheer for anything that he did. "Wherever you are and wherever you're from, I love Minnesota so much," he said.  

Mat Kearney at First Ave, 11/20/2011
Youa Vang
Mat Kearney at First Ave, 11/20/2011
Youa Vang

His encore included two songs from his new album, Young Love, sandwiching a cover of Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" in the middle and ending with his latest single, "Hey Mama," a song that includes hand-claps and a story about falling in love, which was written for his wife. 

It's often taken for granted how difficult it is to be a performer that has the whole package: looks, talent, and voice; even with a great voice, artists can be missing the stage presence that takes the studio artist to the next level. Mat Kearney is the whole package. What sets him apart is his talent to write poignant songs that are never stale and overdone.

Critic's bias: Kearney could easily have fallen through the cracks and gotten lost as an artist, but he was able to rise above the ordinary. An artist that builds a career on longevity rather than what is trending will always have my respect.
The crowd: Suburbia Central.
Overheard in the crowd: "I think people lose their rhythm after the age of 35."
Random notebook dump: There should be a section for short people at concerts. Even with television monitors, I would rather watch the show from the stage because you can miss so much that is going on.
Random notebook dump 2: So many of Kearney's songs can be easily translated to acoustic versions; I wonder if he has or has considered doing an acoustic tour.


Fire and Rain
Young, Dumb and in Love
Count on Me
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Closer to Love
Nothing Left to Lose
Girl America
Chasing Pavements
Where We Gonna Go From Here
Here We Go
Runaway Car
She Got the Honey
All I Need


Ships in the Night
Pumped Up Kicks
Hey Mama 

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