Wednesday 26 June 2013

Matt Alber in Birmingham (not Alabama!)

For a keen cinéaste who has had to cease frequenting the cinema, as the noise levels literally cause me to collapse, I was somewhat daunted to be attending my first live music gig in years. My health condition means I can rarely listen to more than a few tracks at a time before the pain becomes too much. However I am still on a high from yesterday evening’s (openly gay, California-resident) Matt Alber benefit concert at Birmingham LGBT Centre. Matt sang accompanied either by his own guitar or keyboard. The sound levels were just right so I did not faint and my ears did not bleed!

[Image description: Matt Alber standing playing his acoustic guitar]

 [Image description: Matt Alber sitting playing his electronic keyboard]

We set off from Manchester at five to be sure to arrive for the seven o’clock doors' opening. Normally I would have slept for the journey down, for car-travel I find to be monotonously soporific. On this occasion I was wide awake with excitement like a wee child on an outing. Miraculously we hit no hold-ups on the notorious bottle-neck that is the M6 motorway (freeway) nor in Birmingham’s outskirts nor the city centre itself, as most vehicles were travelling out-bound. We managed to find a parking space (as recommended by Birmingham LGBT Centre) on Thorp Street in a pay-and-display zone. We had arrived a full twenty minutes early!

The reception door was opened to us, and we strolled into a plush reception area with a bright Barbie-pink accent wall and a selection of comfy chairs, one of which matched the aforesaid colour. One of Matt’s London fans, the immaculately hirsute Steve, was already ensconced along with some staff and/or volunteers. A couple of minutes later another London fan arrived having dashed from Birmingham New Street train-station, a short walk away. We were all happily chatting together when the door opened in a flurry of energy and in breezed Matt himself. He shook everyone’s hand, passed a few pleasantries, collected his shopping-bag and dashed up the stairs all in a whirl of motion.

With his exit we were all ushered into the café, offered a beverage of our choice and permitted to select our viewing station. Another advantage to being so ahead of schedule was that we early-arrivers could all take up positions at the front of Matt’s performance area. Within minutes Kelly & Nick arrived from Lincolnshire & Hull respectively. Folk had really travelled distances. (For those not familiar with the UK, transport links are generally poor and congested so it takes æons to get from a to b.) This dedication of Matt’s fans made up for the paucity in numbers: the event was always going to be intimate with forty covers; but we were finally a happy band of twenty-five.

[Image description: the stage is set with Matt's guitar & keyboard]

Matt appeared again, having changed into his performance attire: shirt with sleeves rolled up above the elbow revealing a tattoo on his right forearm; a stripey school-type tie knotted tightly and slackened from the neck of an unbuttoned collar; a buttoned-up woollen waistcoat (vest); black jeans; and, black Nike trainers (sneakers). Like a marionette he moved over to the speaker and connected some background music. He then came over to me and my assistant to introduce himself after again shaking hands. His orbs kept contact with either the one or the other of us as he mellifluously spoke. Matt enquired after potential performance venues in Manchester, preferably with a piano. And then he was off to mingle with the other attendees.

Only ten minutes later than advertised, his set began. He performed many of his well known tracks including “End of the World”, “Fieldtrip Buddy”, “Monarch”, “Tall Tales”, The River”, “Tightrope”, “Velvet Goldmine”, “Wallingford”. He also sang covers inter alia Madonna’s “Take a Bow”, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, Eva Cassidy's "Songbird" and Florence & the Machine’s “Only If for a Night” (which may be Matt’s next single release after he recorded it in Manchester last week). Probably I am a tad biased but I hold Matt’s version to be superior - don’t tell Florence! We were also treated to the public première of Matt’s latest London-composed song, “House on Fire” - I can already imagine the dance remixes!

Between songs Matt recounted biographical snippets: his boyhood crush; his first unplanned stay in New York (whence his song “New York City”) with a handsome chaperon; his Ohio love; his director & friend’s Sasquatch tale; his own fanship of pop divas; an impossible mutual attraction; films (movies) and television programmes which inspired him; and the incredible life-cycle and peregrination of Monarch butterflies. We also learned of the serendipitous use of the barbershop for the video of “End of the World” due to no other location permitting a gay love story to be filmed on their premises. Our gain their loss I should say.

After all, who would not want the presence of such terrific talent, such supernal singing, such wonderful warmth, such a magical Mensch. Matt is all of these and more.

Afterwards, there was an opportunity to purchase Matt’s current CD, DVD and copies of the June edition of “meat” the San Francisco “SF” edition for which Matt and his chums posed and so forth.

Whenever I meet famous folk, I inevitably clam up. (I recall meeting my long-time crush Peter Skellern years ago and being unable to even move!) However, I put into practice the little CBT tips I had been taught: I pushed myself to ask Matt to sign my CDs; I chatted with him for a few minutes; as well as again shaking his hand twice more. I did not even get out my wet-wipes or anti-bacterial gel à la Big Bang Theory's Sheldon afterwards. Matt is so affable that I am certain it was he who put me at ease. And as if any further evidence were needed to prove what a human-being Matt is, the proceeds of the benefit concert were donated by him to TOPAZ, Brum's older LGBTI folk's own support group. Bless him!

Having viewed a fair few youtube videos of Matt performing 'on stage', this concert iterated my sense that live he sings with far more passion and with an extra spark that is not necessarily present in the recording-studio vocalisations. Or maybe his beatific smile has enchanted me and altered my perceptions.

I do so hope you will give Matt Alber a listen. %)

[Image description: Matt Alber's acoustic guitar in its stand]

For my article on Matt from last month, "Matt Alber: All My Ginger Fantasies In One Man", see here.

Matt has his own website:

He can be found on facebook under “Matt Alber” band/musician.

Also on twitter: @mattalber

There is also a dedicated youtube channel.

1 comment:

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