I think it’s kind of interesting how we all get into music or start listening to a certain band or artist. Probably from an early age, your parents started influencing your music tastes, much like Rebecca Weinberg mentioned in the first Shows I Go To Podcast. Our friends and siblings start influencing our music tastes as we get older; maybe even a significant other or you fall in love with a band that’s opening for your favorite band that you were there to see.
My friend, who lives in Nashville, told me last fall he was going on tour for a bit with Judah and the Lion. He was going to be opening a few shows for those guys, so I checked out their music and quickly fell in love with their Americana-Folk style music that just speaks to millennials with songs like “Twenty-Somethings,” “Rich Kids,” and “Kickin’ da Leaves.”
About that same time I was dating this girl and we were in the car and the radio dial was on the local pop radio station and Mat Kearney’s song, “Hey Mama,” came one. I was into it, head bobbing; she looks at me and says “I didn’t know you like Mat Kearney” and my response was “Who’s Mat Kearney?” Now knowing who Mat Kearney was, I got into his music, the progression of his music, and started noticing his catchy lyrics on some TV shows like Friday Night Lights, Scrubs, and One Tree Hill and I will gladly own that I watched One Tree Hill religiously.
Those two bands make for the perfect touring combination and I was tripping-out when I heard they were on tour together for Mat’s “Just Kids Tour.” On the way to the show, I was telling my friend about the majesty that is Judah and the Lion and she was telling me how her friend has seen Mat Kearney a handful of times and was bummed that he couldn’t make the show on Sunday because, you know, Mother’s Day. In my thick skull I was wondering why he’d seen Mat live so many times because I kind-of generalized that most singer-songwriters, like Mat, put on a fairly, how do I say it, lackluster show. You know the type, just standing still, hiding behind their guitar and mic stand.
Judah and the Lion took the stage with Judah Akers handing out cookies, he nabbed from backstage, to some people in the front row, a few of which being my friends. From the start of their set, Judah told the crowd that he and everyone on stage knew everyone in the crowd could spend their money on other things, but they chose to spend it on their show, on Mother’s Day, and they wanted to give everyone there the best show they could. I love it when musicians recognize and come out and say that because, it’s true. We, the fans, could easily spend our money and free time on something else, but we choose to spend nights, weekends, and holidays with these artists and in return, we should get a top notch performance and not some out of tune, high as a kite, drunken debauchery, joke of a show.
When they played on The David Letterman Show, Judah wore a t-shirt that read “90’s Kid” and when they played “Twenty-Somethings,” it showed that they’re all 90’s kids. They didn’t just play “Twenty-Somethings,” they mashed it up with “We Built This City” by Starship and “Remix” by R Kelly, all with choreographed dance moves because you can’t just sing a stadium anthem and a slow, groove song.
When their set ended, the crowd was electrified and asking for an encore. They didn’t give an encore, but they did do what they said they were going to do: give everyone there the best show they could give.
One of the things I’ve seen Mitch do at a show is smile, close his eyes, tilt his chin up, and just let the music and words take over. When I’m in the photo pit, I’m not able to do that because I need to freeze these artists in time, but Mat’s set began with “Heartbreak Dreamer” in reverse order. The spoken word piece of the song started and the lights dimmed blue and the crowd started reciting that poem. I took a seat in the photo pit and just let the words and the beat sink in.
As I opened my eyes, the crowd started to erupt as Mat took the stage without a guitar, grabbed the mic and mic stand, and began to sing words of hope and truth telling everyone in that room to just hold on when life seems hopeless and is going nowhere. Hold on to that dream and embrace the struggles that come with it, because there’s light right around the corner and that
“All the Heartbreak Dreamers, Gonna be alright.”
Like I said earlier, Mat’s music has progressed over the course of his five albums and his set was filled with songs everyone loves and was vying to hear from all five of his albums. Halfway through his set he saw Judah and the Lion just standing side stage, almost like they wanted to come on stage and perform with him. He invited them on stage and they covered “Uptown Funk” and I personally like their cover ten times more than Bruno Mars’ version. It’s almost like they planned that…
As Judah and the Lion were exiting the stage, the crowd started coming down from their high and Mat wouldn’t let it happen as he jumped into the crowd, slapping high fives, and taking selfies with the crowd during “Runaway.” Once he was back on stage and singing “She Got The Honey,” he was taking peoples cell phones out of their hands and taking some of his own selfies on stage.
The energy in the room hit its peak and about that time the lights came down for “Heartbeat” while Mat was standing atop his piano that he played earlier in the night. The lights crossed paths above his head and Mat was handed a disco ball that he held up as the lights scattered throughout the room. I’ve never seen anyone do that before and I give him props for being able to hold a disco ball up and continue to sing the entire song.
He ended his set with “Hey Mama” and the crowd demanded an encore. Feeding the crowd what they wanted, he and his band came back on stage to finish off the night with “Just Kids,” “Ships in the Night,” and as “Coming Home” was coming to a close, he looked up to the 2nd floor where his mom and grandma were looking on and blew two kisses, one for each of them.
It’s shows like these that I think everyone loves and longs for at times … the show you go to where you wouldn’t have known about the artist(s) until someone tells you about them. Where you go in with some preconceived notion, and you walk out feeling star struck, uplifted, overjoyed, and inspired.
Mat Kearney Live Review and Concert Photos w/ Judah and the Lion by Justin Fricke.
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