The last time Matt Nathanson played in Northampton, Mass., was at a small nightclub called the Iron Horse, a standing room only venue with a capacity of around 300. Last Saturday night, he moved up the street to Calvin Theater to play his biggest headlining show to date, filling nearly all 1,300 seats inside.
Nathanson has been playing solo dates across the country as well as supporting Kelly Clarkson on her “Stronger” tour since early 2012. His most recent album, Modern Love, dropped last June and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard 200. His “All Night Noise” tour has been on and off since then, including headline performances at the Boston House of Blues and Six Flags New England.
The Massachusetts native, known distinctly for the comedic and musical elements of his shows, opened with “Mercy,” the energy-injected sing-along song off Modern Love. The set list had a great blend for new and old fans with a short acoustic set towards the middle of the show, including older songs like “Church Clothes,” played brilliantly on the 12-string guitar, which is a permanent fixture during Nathanson’s live shows.
Between songs, Nathanson talked about such gripping topics as the Muppets and the possible dirty nature hidden in the lyrics of Disney movies. The night can be summed up in one quote that Nathanson said during the show: “Let’s use Scrabble as the analogy, shall we, some people get together and play Scrabble, it’s a magical time, its why we’re all here… how many people stayed in the relationship because they were good Scrabble partners?” It was a comic commentary on how his songs relate to the romantic aspects of a relationship.
Fan favorites, such as “Little Victories” and “Fall to Pieces,” were performed with the full band, which surprisingly consisted of all members hailing from Massachusetts. At one point, the accordion even made an appearance during “Fall to Pieces.”
Nathanson’s recent success can be attributed to the radio play of the platinum-hit “Come on Get Higher,” which came off his 2007 record, Some Mad Hope. When it was delivered during the encore, it would have been nearly impossible to find someone who wasn’t singing along. Many people don’t know that Matt Nathanson has been around for a lot longer than a few years. His first record came out in 1993 and now, nearly 20 years into his career, he’s had his big break. It’s great to see an artist slowly build a career one show and city at a time. Although Nathanson will probably never headline huge arenas, seeing him succeed as a mid-level artist in a time when records don’t sell is something special.
Every fan in Northampton last Saturday night, whether it was their first Matt Nathanson show or their 40th, should be honored to see one of America’s best songwriters and performers in his prime. Keep your eyes open for Matt Nathanson dates in the future because it’s one show you’ll definitely leave from happy.