Here’s a brief round up of many (not all) things Matt Cardle over the past few months.
So the Letters album went Platinum a while ago and Matt has been touring Britain promoting it. The warm up tour took in the Highlands and Islands, culminating at the legendary Koko. I was there and his voice was as good as I’d ever heard it. He kicked off with a new version of the title track Letters that was half acoustic, half rocking out and it set the mood for the whole show where soaring falsetto interspersed some belting performances. He was thrilled when the audience sang along to what were still new songs, not yet released, and left the stage exclaiming “Thank you Koko. Best night of my life!”
That was then. Since that night, he has completed his tour proper, adding an extra date in Belfast to satisfy Irish fans and slipping in a couple of surprises. The set would begin with full band and plenty of rocky numbers. The middle of the performance was given over to an acoustic set. If you bought the Letters album, you will be familiar with Beat of a Breaking Heart, a mournful, haunting ballad that was treated to a lot of violins on the album. Some loved this, others were critical. Live, it turned into a different animal altogether, starting soft and heart wrenching with subtle accompaniment from the band that included a heartbeat from drummer Tom and Matt’s vocals at the centre. Halfway through instruments were changed, Matt picked up his guitar and suddenly we were watching a rock band. This marked the end of the acoustic section and back to the lively stuff. Wonderful.
By the time the tour ended at the Hammersmith Apollo, it was clearly a resounding success, selling out at pretty much every venue. Matt and the band had well and truly gelled and confidence was high, leading to ever more breathtaking performances. He struggled to get through First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, the song that made his name on X Factor as the emotion told on him. Wiping away tears and banging the heels of his hands together hard, clicking his fingers, shaking his head at times to try and force away the pain the song clearly causes him (you’ll no doubt be aware that it marks a very poignant event for him and his extended family).
I did think that having to sing it so many times during the X Factor tour and then including it into the set list for his own tour would have weakened the effect it had on him, but clearly not. A man’s voice called out: “Go on Matt,” from one of the front rows and this seemed to bring him back to himself a little. Once the song was over, he turned away from the audience for a second or two and then grabbed his stool, which he banged down hard onto the stage before gripping his guitar over tightly. Matt is a weeper, we know this and tears came a couple more times, particularly on the final song of his encore, when the audience had to help him when he lost the power to sing at all for moments at a time.
Hammersmith was my second gig of the tour, the first being Birmingham and the two could not have been more different. In Birmingham the audience were quiet and seated. Not cold or disinterested, but reverential and deeply appreciative. I left at the end with a huge smile on my face and a burning desire to do it all again, hence my presence at Hammersmith, which was noisy, standing and exuberant. Yes, there was huge empathy during the sadder songs, but mainly it was party time. Some were seeing Matt live for the first time; others had attended up to eight of the twenty three dates of the tour and were as enthusiastic at the end as they had been at the beginning. His entire family seemed to have turned out for the last show and they could not have been more lovely to Matt’s fans. Ali McMillan was also there, smiling and chatting to fans. It was like going to a huge family party where the guest of honour got up and sang for everyone, such was the warmth and closeness of the atmosphere.
Singer Roxanne Emery had been the warm up act during the tour. She was superb, I cannot deny it and she gained many fans on the way, selling her album during the intermission. I think we will hear more from her.
After the concert I expected the elation I’d felt after Birmingham, but instead there was a kind of emptiness that bordered on grief. It’s difficult to say what caused this, but I think it was a mixture of sadness that the tour was over and the fact that every bit of emotion had been pulled from me during the gig so that there literally was nothing left. It took a few days to get my bounce back, but boy was it worth it!
All that, though, is now in the past and Matt is off chasing new horizons. He has already penned some new tunes with James Walsh and is currently in L.A. writing with the likes of R. B. McKnight and Jamie Hartman, who tweeted to Matt on Wednesday: “Great day writing today fella – let’s face it we wrote a smash :)” On Saturday Matt will perform at the Hotel Cafe, a Los Angeles venue that has a name for launching new talent. Hopefully there will be some video footage for fans to enjoy somewhere down the line and in the meantime we can be content with knowing that album 2 is well underway. There are plenty of chances to see him perform throughout the summer and more dates keep being added.
Upcoming gigs (courtesy of Matt Cardle Fans on Twitter:
May 5 Hotel Cafe LA(USA)
May 26. Boston (UK)
June 15th Toronto (Canada)
June24 IOW Festival
June 30th High Barn
July 7th M Fest
July 22nd South Shields
Photograph courtesy of Jon Phillips.
Thanks to Piebald Lady for additional information.