While his tour may be named “Last of the Great Pretenders,” Matt Nathanson’s show on November 2 at the Electric Factory ranked anything but last. To say that this man is a performer is an understatement, and this past Saturday he proved his worth.
The concert began with opener Joshua Radin, an American singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio. Radin, while perhaps not yet a household name, is far from an unknown. Beginning his musical career only 11 years ago, at which time he first learned how to play the guitar, Radin’s music has amassed over 75 film and television placements, everywhere from Scrubs and 90210 to Grey’s Anatomy and House M.D.. His mellow, John Mayer-esque sound was perfect for exciting the crowd without whipping it into a frenzy.
The frenzy came later when, as the crowd waited with bated breath, Matt Nathanson walked out on stage and burst right into “Mission Bells,” the first single off of his new album, “Last of the Great Pretenders,” from which the tour got its name. Then, without skipping a beat, he began “Modern Love,” the title track from his ninth album, and headed straight into “Run,” a song off of the same album which he recorded with the country band Sugarland. His next song, “Heart Starts” off of his new album, he introduced as a “song you write for someone who is leaving you as you’re begging for her to stay.”
Before he began his next song, he switched his guitar out and as he was strumming around to get his feel for it, he suddenly stopped and very roughly worked out the beginning of “Heat of the Moment” by Asia, a song which he and his band mates proceeded to half-cover before they cracked up laughing. Then, in the middle of his next song, “Car Crash,” Matt Nathanson veered off into an intermittent cover of Dr. Dog’s “Shadow People.”
He then played “Kill the Lights” and “Sky High Honey,” two songs off of his new record, back-to-back. When he got about halfway through his next song, “Room @ the End of the World,” he began to sing “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers. He then stopped singing and, as the rest of the musicians on stage continued to play, Matt began to talk to the audience, explaining his theory that, inside each and every one of us, there is a little Whitney Houston waiting to get out.
He then began a call-and-response with the audience while singing Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” bringing the entire crowd to life. He took that energy right into his next song, “Wedding Dress,” which made the crowd scream and shout.
His next song was “Bulletproof Weeks.” There was such raw emotion in the song that the whole audience seemed entranced. From there, he went into “Suspended” and then straight to “Annie’s Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave),” another new record song.
As he told the story of how his next song, “Kinks Shirt,” came to be, he had the crowd roaring which only escalated as he launched into his next song, a cover of “Under Pressure” recorded by David Bowie and Queen. Matt Nathanson ended his set with the final track on “Last of the Great Pretenders” entitled “Farewell, December.”
As he and his fellow musicians walked off stage, the audience clapped and yelled until they came back on for three more songs, beginning with “Earthquake Weather,” the first track of “Pretenders,” going into one of his more popular songs, “Faster,” and ending with his best known song, “Come on Get Higher.” Though the night had to end eventually, there was a new energy as I walked out the door that I had not felt walking in. While he may be the “last of the great pretenders,” he is unquestionably a great performer.