Sunday, July 06, 2014


Matt Andersen's voice is an absolute force of nature.

The pride of Perth-Andover, New Brunswick walked out on the Claridge Homes Stage at 6pm on Saturday and owned the crowd from the first note. Backed by the Mellotones, Andersen casually mentioned between songs that this was just the fourth gig with the nine-man wrecking crew from Halifax. Boasting four horns, drums , bass, guitars and keys, the band was solid as they tore through a mix of originals and well chosen covers.

Playing acoustic guitar for the first half of the set, the hirsute star of the show steered the group through soulful renditions of his tunes. One of the many highlights was a song from his latest release, Weightless. Co-wriiten with Joel Plaskett, "My Last Day" muses upon what we would do with ourselves if we knew our time here on earth was limited to one more day. He introducd this one by noting that "we have lost a couple of very talented coast musicians this past year" and dedicated this one accordingly. No doubt referencing the passing of Jay Smith, it was a stellar performance from all involved. One very pleasant surprise was the inclusion of The Band's "Ophelia", which kept the audience dancing throughout and was punctuated by a note perfect trumpet solo. The punchy horn section was deployed for maximum impact as they also provided incredible backing vocals when not occupied with their instruments.

Andersen ramped up the energy when he turned and picked up his blue hollow-body electric, treating those assembled to searing, jaw-dropping solos. During the gut-bucket blues of "The Devil's Bride", he joked about needing "a perfectly greasy trombone solo" and that's just what was delivered. Despite a blistering run through soul, blues and R & B all filtered through the lens of his peerless voice, the magician saved his best trick for the closer.

There was no disguising the signature, frenetic guitar intro to Joe Cocker's arrangement of the Beatle classic, "With a Little Help From My Friends". Every single person assembled was swaying in rhythm, though when the man stepped up to the mic to deliver the opening lines, it was spine tingling. Aided and abetted by the intensity of the Mellotones, Mr. Andersen made you forget that anyone else ever touched this tune. He completely nailed it and, arguably, took it to another level. The crowd went out of their minds as the last notes rang out.

Simply put, it was a masterful set by a prodigiously gifted artist. Do yourself a favor and take the opportunity to catch Matt with the Mellotones on one of their upcoming live dates. Definitely one of the hottest sets from day 3 of Ottawa Bluesfest.

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