Barber doesn’t make cut

Matt Barber is always happy to be playing Kingston.
Matt Barber is always happy to be playing Kingston.

Concert Review: Matt Barber @ the Grad Club

Perhaps it was the crowd who chose to remain seated as Barber repeatedly encouraged them to consider dancing; perhaps it was the birthday party happening at the back of the room that didn’t really consider Barber as anything more than background music; perhaps it was because it was Friday night of Frosh week and most people chose house parties over the Grad Club, but the Matthew Barber and The Union Dues show just didn’t satisfy.

Having only formed an idea of Matthew Barber’s music based on the impression I got of him from the promo pics I had seen, I arrived at the Grad Club on Friday with some completely unfounded illusions of what I was about to experience.

Barber’s Union Dues guitarist, Pete Elkas, opened the show. No one seemed to pay all that much attention to him, but those who did had fun chilling to his Jack Johnson-esque tunes.

When Barber and The Union Dues took the stage, I was quite eager to see what his sound was like. I really enjoyed their first number; a mellow tune, an odd choice for the curtain raiser, but a good transition from Elkas’ relaxed set. I particularly enjoyed the line in the first song, “We drank ourselves dry, stoned ourselves high,” for its classic rock sensibilities.

However, following this, it became exceedingly clear that that was the only reason to enjoy Barber’s work—because it sounded like something you’d heard before which you probably liked. By the third song, I was beginning to realize that most of the songs seemed to sound like another song I already knew.

Most, if not all, of Barber’s songs sounded very similar. If you were in a drunken blur, you probably would have found that show to be the longest song you’ve ever heard. Even the tunes where he’d give a preliminary, “this is a slow jam,” or “this is a bit of a ballad” started out as he had described, but would soon revert back to the crashing combination of cymbals and guitars that composed the rest of his songs.

His sound had a bit of a southern tinge, and brought back forgotten memories of early-to-mid 90s Jam bands. The music was heavily influenced to the point of mimicry. I swore at one point they were breaking into a rockier version of “Stand by Me” but no, they just stole, I assume unwittingly, that unforgettable riff for their song “You and Me.” Their tunes were predictable, the lyrical images cliché, and at times you could actually predict the words before he sang them.

The music became tedious as not only the sound of each song, but also volume level of the music failed to vary.

To be fair, there were moments where I did see potential, and I heard something that caught my ear. Like in many of the instrumental breaks where the band’s accomplished instrumental abilities were able to shine.

There is a market for Barber though, as some people find comfort in familiarity, and those people would probably enjoy his not so risky, sound-alike quality. But, for those who are looking for something new, a Matthew Barber show probably isn’t the place to find it.

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