Matt Andersen and the Big Bottle of Joy: Live At The Aeolian

Matt Andersen & Big Bottle of Joy

We’ve shared many recaps of the concerts enjoyed during our most recent adventures in Southern Ontario (4 concerts in 3 days), and wrap up here with the show that first caught my attention and prompted our weekend of festivities – Matt Andersen’s “Big Bottle of Joy” album full band show at The Aeolian in London, ON.  Originally scheduled for both the Saturday (our choice) and Sunday nights, both shows sold out very quickly, and the subsequent addition of a third consecutive show on the Monday promptly sold out too.

Following a rousing 40-minute opening set from The Hello Darlins, Matt Andersen and his full complement of musicians (collectively ‘The Big Bottle of Joy’) were greeted enthusiastically by The Aeolian faithful. Joined by this stellar cast: Cory Tetford (guitars), Kim Dunn (keyboards), Chris Kirby (B3 organ), Mike Farrington Jr (bass), Geoff Arsenault (drums), and the powerful vocal trio of Micah Smith and her cousins, sisters Reeny Smith (2022 Music Nova Scotia Musician of the Year) and Haliey Smith – the ensemble filled the room with an abundance of soul, blues, gospel, and good old-fashioned rock & roll for a solid 1 hour, 45 minute duration.

“Thank you so much, we’re so glad to be here,” Matt shared following the highly energetic opener (and recent single), “Let It Slide.” “We love you” came a shout from the back of the room. “Really, good. I like it when people say that,” Matt responded, earning chuckles, his fun personality and natural comedic timing shining immediately. “That’s so much nicer that what a lot of people shout out over the years. That guy back home who shouts out ‘Play something you know.’ He’s a dickhead.”  If you’ve seen Matt perform in the past, you’ve likely heard this tale of a local heckler from his early days of performing…and Matt would add a few more references and other amusing anecdotes as the evening progressed.

Matt Andersen & Big Bottle of Joy

With the release of their album back on March 10th, the band were more than ready and willing to bring these songs to life on the stage. New cuts such as “How Far Will You Go,” “Rolling Down The Road,” and the popular single “Only An Island” were performed beautifully, interspersed by some of Matt’s older tunes that received the full band treatment too. One such tune dated back to his 2007 “Second Time Around” album, as the band delivered “If I Can’t Have You,” complete with a distinct reggae flavor courtesy of both the guitars and some extra sauce from Kim’s piano keys.

As for Matt’s comedic talents, he was on fine form all evening, offering tales about being kept in line as a child by ‘mom’s wooden spoon,’ about ‘cutting a rug’ on stage (and earning additional laughs when stating that we should see his stage diving), and poking a little fun as his own expense when noticing the enormous backdrop behind the band featuring their name. “This is also the biggest piece of fabric my name’s been written on since my high school jersey,” he joked, earning more laughter. “I’m just kidding, I didn’t play any sports. I was the football team at my school.”

As the ensuing laughter subsided, Matt offered some background on a new album track titled “Aurora.” “This tune was written by a friend of mine back home called Terra Spencer. She’s fantastic,” he offered (and having heard this tale last year during Matt’s visit to the US, we knew what was coming). “About five years ago, she went from being a mortician to a musician. She’s just working alphabetically through her career.”  Terra Spencer is also credited for a co-write on another album track (not performed on this evening), and joins many other familiar Canadian artists that contributed to the songwriting across the album – including Andy Stochansky, Carleton Stone, Ian Janes, and Dave Sampson.

Matt Andersen & Big Bottle of Joy

During a brief solo segment mid-set, Matt would take time to discuss the knack his mom has for creating unique metaphors, and how one such moment led to yet another songwriting collaboration, this time with Donovan Woods. “We’d had a conversation once about being grateful for what you have, and mom said, ‘you know what, I think sometimes people just need to learn to dance in the shoes they’ve got on.’ Good job mom,” he commenced. “I put that idea to Donovan Woods, and we wrote this song together, and mom thinks it’s pretty cool because she’s technically got a co-write with Donovan Woods. And this part’s probably gonna be the only chance you’ll really get to cuddle, so if you want to cuddle, go ahead and make your move … be sure to check in with the person you’re gonna cuddle with though.”

Matt would take time to also discuss “Time For The Wicked To Rest,” a track found on his 2022 “From House To House” album, and performed on this evening. “I just mention here my good friend named David Francey, and when I was getting ready for my last album, he sent along a song and the sent the lyrics and music,” Matt shared. “Knowing the music was there, and the words, I found his version and I was way off base.  And what if I got into a fight about it with David Francey … He’d kick my ass!”  And returning to his earlier line of conversation, would add: “This song is pretty much ‘just don’t be a dickhead, right?’ You can make a lot of better effort and do a lot more things, ‘don’t ever be a dickhead.’ And I’m gonna have one drink for every time I say dickhead, so … one two three four….”

Prior to his sound engineer/stagehand bringing a chair onto stage for Matt during the solo segment, Matt not only commended his friend, but took delight in some banter with the crowd too. “I got Steve back there on the board for us tonight,” he shared. “Over the last 12 years, Steve is the person in my life I spend the most time with by far. We got to restaurants. I know what Steve wants…” “What does he want?” came the cry from the back of the room. “Well, nothing right now. We’re doing a show. Steve, you don’t think you’re getting fed right now, do you?” came Matt’s rapid retort. “I appreciate you coming out to see me. I know you have many other things you could spend your money on tonight,” he continued. “We love you,” from behind us once more. “Alright! I’m quite fond of you as well. I think it’s a little early in our relationship to be using the L-word,” Matt added, before mesmerizing the room with an outstanding solo performance of “Coal Mining Blues.”

Matt Andersen & Big Bottle of Joy

Matt’s solo segment was rounded out by a moment that I’d kept my fingers crossed would happen – a performance of “Still Waters,” the 2020 collaboration with The Hello Darlins (their debut single) – and once Candace Lacina (vocals) and Mike Little (accordion) emerged from the shadows to join Matt on stage, this item was finally scratched from my bucket list of music moments to witness live. Following the performance of “My Last Day” with The Big Bottle of Joy (taken from Matt’s 2014 “Weightless” album), all five members of The Hello Darlins would receive an invitation back to the stage, and together we enjoyed seeing all 14 musicians rock the house with a performance of “Hands Of Time.”

Not quite done yet, however (and with no ‘leave the stage encore theatrics’ required), all 14 musicians remained on stage to save the very best until last – bringing the house completely down with an explosive ‘hold-nothing-back,’ ‘by-the-seats-of-your-pants’ cover of Joe Cocker’s popular anthem, “With A Little Help From My Friends.”  Ending the evening on this high, and leaving a packed house in front of them in sheer awe of it all, Matt Andersen – once again – left the room breathless.  Matt is always a lock when it comes to delivering the goods, but with the additional support and phenomenal musicianship alongside him, raised the bar (and our future expectations) to an all-new dimension.

This cross-Canada tour runs through May 6th, with many dates still available back here on the east coast. If you’ve been on the fence about purchasing tickets to one of these shows, the clock is still ticking, but time is rapidly running out. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to enjoy live music from both The Hello Darlins (headliners in their own right) and Matt Andersen and The Big Bottle of Joy – Team GDW STRONGLY encourage you to grab those tickets right now.

Set List:

  1. Let It Slide
  2. So Low, Solo
  3. What Would Your Mama Say
  4. If I can’t Have You
  5. Aurora
  6. How Far Will You Go
  7. What’s On My Mind
  8. Time For The Wicked To Rest
  9. Coal Mining Blues (solo)
  10. Shoes (solo)
  11. Still Waters (solo ft. Candace Lacina & Mike Little)
  12. Only An Island
  13. Keep Holding On
  14. Free Man
  15. Rolling Down The Road
  16. My Last Day
  17. Hands Of Time (ft. The Hello Darlins)
  18. With A Little Help From My Friends (Joe Cocker cover – ft. The Hello Darlins)
Matt Andersen & the Big Bottle of Joy Tour Poster

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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