Team GDW spent another weekend taking a road trip to Jammin’ Java in VA, eager to enjoy an evening of music from Nova Scotia’s Juno Award nominee and blues musician extraordinaire, Matt Andersen. Accompanied on this US tour by singer-songwriter (and add producer to her resume now) Erin Costelo, music lovers congregating at this intimate venue on this particular Sunday night were privy to some outstanding music from two of the finest from their native province.
We first caught a live show from Erin Costelo last fall, when she officially launched her “Sweet Marie” album in Toronto (complete with her full band); followed once more in Philadelphia last December with just her fiance/guitarist Clive MacNutt. This time around, Erin was flying solo to fulfill the opening duties for Matt. “Clive’s back home taking care of the dogs,” she shared with me during the intermission. Seating herself center-stage behind her keyboard, Erin shared six tracks to commence the evening, mixing in material from across her musical catalog, and easily earned many new fans in the process.
With her natural charisma, Erin conversed with the audience frequently in between tracks. Following her performance of “Worry Don’t Weigh Me Down” (from her critically acclaimed “Down Below, The Status Quo” album), Erin shared that she considered the song to have what she calls her ‘Taylor Swift’ bridge. “If you play it fast enough, it sounds like a Taylor Swift song,” she joked, before repeating the line “I got good at taking my time,” at a slightly accelerated pace. “If only I’d recorded it that fast, I’d be a millionaire by now.” Erin would share more lighthearted banter shortly afterwards, introducing “All In Your Head” as the song written about a night she thought she was abducted by aliens. “This is a possibly fictitious alien song, or possibly non fiction, I’m not sure,” she cracked, adding that she’d bought some tote bags with alien abduction prints on this tour with her.
Erin would perform two songs that she co-wrote with Stephen Fearing, the powerful “Lord Come And Take Me Home,” and the up-tempo “Try Try Again.” “Stephen recorded ‘Try Try Again’ with his band, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and at the time, the guitar player in that band (Colin Linden) was on tour as Bob Dylan’s guitar player, so it’s likely that Bob Dylan has held in his hand a CD with my name on it,” she shared proudly. Closing her set with “Fighter,” Erin acknowledged the absence of her right-hand man. “This song has an epic Hendrix style guitar solo in the center of it, so we’ll see what happens when we get to that part,” she added. “My guitar player is home.” And on cue, as Costelo reached the moment where Clive’s riffs would ring out, her unexpected vocal air-guitar cries combined perfectly with her keyboard strokes, giving us yet another demonstration of her musical talents and improvisation. A short, but sweet set, and a room full of happy fans, based on the well-earned applause she received.
Erin Costelo Set List:
- The Birds That Wake The Day
- Worry Don’t Weigh Me Down
- Try Try Again
- All In Your Head
- Lord Come And Take Me Home (Titanic)
Following a brief intermission, Matt Andersen graced the stage with his trusty Lakewood acoustic guitar in hand, taking his seat and announcing that he planned to share some material from his brand hew “Halfway Home By Morning” album, and plenty of his older tunes too. Addressing the audience with his gratitude for folks coming out to the show, a member of the audience would return the compliment. “Really, if neither of us were here, it would be pretty friggin’ awkward I think for everybody, so I think we’re all happy to be here,” Matt jokingly retorted.
Opting to open with some new material, Matt shared both “Free Man” and “Take Me Back” from his current release, before wowing everybody with some phenomenal slide-action on “I Play The Fool For You,” a track taken from his 2007 “Second Time Around“ album. Following the performance of “Quiet Company,” from the 2016 “Honest Man” album, Matt would inadvertently toss his guitar pick aside. “I’m just throwing these things away now, that’s how much money I’m making,” he joked. “Pretty good chance I’m gonna pick that one up later.” Eliciting chuckles from the room, Andersen was easily encouraged to share his uniquely Maritimes sense of humor. “We’ve been having a lot of fun on tour, and it kind of reminded me of something that I’d forgot, and that is the magic of Cracker Barrel,” he shared. “And what is so magic about Cracker Barrel is that when you haven’t been there for a long time, you start to think that you enjoyed it the last time you were there, and we got beat by that one again.” The audience were eating out of the palm of the storyteller’s hand at this point. “We all walked in and it was like The Wizard of Oz. We’re all skipping and happy, and we go in there, and we do not skip out, that’s for sure.” Matt would pause to allow the laughter to subside, before throwing in a final punchline. “I should have known better though, when we come in to Ohio and the lady had a southern accent, and I know something is not right here.”
With a brief deviation from his predetermined set list, Matt would announce that he’d accepted a request to play “Hold Me With Both Hands” prior to the show. “I forgot about this request until I walked on stage, so I didn’t have a chance to practice it,” he chuckled. “But that’s never stopped me before, I guess. I’m gonna try this one, I’m just being honest with ya.” Displaying no signs of rust or forgotten lines, Matt performed this lesser played track flawlessly. “I’m not gonna charge you for that one, that one’s on the house, a freebee, wow,” he stated. “Back home, when I used to play, there was a guy; he’d always shout out ‘Play something you know,’ he’s a dickhead, but he was right.”
Popular favorites that have become staple live tracks for Andersen were naturally included, with “Coal Mining Blues” and “Steamroller” (complete with his ‘Cookie Monster’ segment) well received by those in the room. Returning one last time to his new album, Matt would discuss how he was honored to write and record “Something To Lose” with New York singer-songwriter Amy Helm. “This is one of my favorite moments on the album, so just imagine Amy’s here right now singing some really incredible shit, and you guys are amazed by it,” he shared prior to performing the song. “And I’m here too! It’s gonna be great!”
Even with a dimly lit stage, it was impossible to ignore Erin’s keyboard sitting prominently to Matt’s right side. Teased with the idea that Erin would join Matt for a song on this night, it would be a two-track encore that witnessed both Erin and Matt collaborate. With a strong desire to sing some gospel music “on a Sunday night,” this duo would amaze all with a cover of the Curtis Mayfield penned track, “People Get Ready.” However, the true highlight of the night had to be the closing number; a highly charged rendition of the classic Neil Young hit, “Helpless.” Not only would both artists split the verses, they would both have the opportunity to shine during some instrumental solo’s too. A great way to bring the evening to a close, and maybe seeds planted for hopefully more collaborations between these Nova Scotian’s again in the future. It was wonderful to catch up with both artists again on US soil, and both are welcome back to this venue again anytime.
Matt Andersen Set List:
- Free Man
- Take Me Back
- I Play The Fool For You
- Quiet Company
- Come By
- I Lost My Way
- Hold Me With Both Hands (taken by request)
- Have You Got The Blues
- Coal Mining Blues
- Something To Lose
- Make You Stay
- Been My Last
- Honest Man
- Devil’s Bride
- People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield cover – with Erin Costelo)
- Helpless (Neil Young cover – with Erin Costelo)