Following our recent Sunday afternoon matinee “EcoFolk” benefit concert at The Aeolian Hall, we made our way to downtown London for an evening performance from “Newfoundland Traditional Singer, Guitarist and Storyteller,” Matthew Byrne.  Team GDW reviewed Matthew’s most recent “Horizon Lines” album last summer, and knew that this was an artist that we needed to catch live when given the chance.  Fate clearly dealt us the right hand during this particular weekend, as an evening with Matthew at Chaucer’s Pub was announced long after we had made plans to be in London, and thus, the opportunity had finally arrived.

Chaucer’s Pub proved to be a wonderful, intimate venue for the show, and understandably sold out pretty quickly.  After securing a pair of the very few remaining open seats prior to the show, we settled in for the show.  Matthew would receive a very welcoming reception upon his introduction to the stage,  and as advertised, his performance comprised of traditional song, some guitar, and plenty of tales of Newfoundland life.

Continuing to promote his most recent release, Matthew would share six tracks from “New Horizons,” opening the show with both “Jim Harris” and his version of the traditional tune (and popular Great Big Sea cover) “The River Driver.”  Music would also be drawn from his previous 2014 album “Hearts and Heroes”(“Bold Nelson”) and the 2010 debut album “Ballads” (“Three Score and Ten” and “Come Fare Away”) throughout his performance.

Of course, many tales preceded several of the songs, providing an additional dimension to the music that may not have existed upon simply hearing his albums without such knowledge, and naturally promoted deeper meanings of such compositions.  Examples included the true story of damaging gales on the Canadian east coast in the 1800s (“Three Score and Ten”) and the discovery of a historic Byrne family love story from 1947 (“Adelaide”).  Matthew would even manage to link the tales of The Battle of Trafalgar (“Bold Nelson”) with a joke referencing Air Canada’s publicized treatment of guitars (ouch).  However, with all tales told in good spirits, the audience welcomed and applauded the additional insights and connections to the songs being offered.

Wrapping up his show with “Come Fare Away,” the sold out room were not willing to let Matthew leave too soon, thus prompting an encore that featured two covers, the first being Jim Payne’s “Waltz Around the Cape,” and the grand finale a totally unplugged version of Cyril Tawney’s “Grey Funnel Line” (from “Hearts and Heroes”).  Encouraging the audience to harmonize with him during the chorus, Matthew pulled off a terrific feat of having the room become one; you truly had to be there to appreciate how so many could come together and create such a beautiful sound.  What a way to end the evening, and what a great climax to a wonderful day of live music in the city of London, ON.

Set List:

  1. Jim Harris
  2. The River Driver
  3. Pad’s Song (Dardanelles)
  4. Jesse Monroe
  5. Three Score and Ten
  6. Bold Nelson
  7. Go To Sea No More
  8. Intro (Instrumental)
  9. Nancy From London
  10. Long Years Ago
  11. Adelaide
  12. Come Fare Away

Encore:

  1. Waltz Around the Cape (Jim Payne Cover)
  2. Grey Funnel Line (unplugged)

~ M

Visit Matthew Byrne’s website.

Listen to “Horizon Lines” on Spotify.