Playing a sold-out show Friday at St. Cecilia Music Center, the revered singer-songwriter played 20 songs in a concert covering 100-plus minutes. The review and photos at Local Spins.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERY AND SET LIST
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Singer-songwriter Mat Kearney was his affable self Friday night during his concert at St. Cecilia Music Center in downtown Grand Rapids.
He shared stories and even did some reminiscing in front of a sold-out audience.
Not that he short-changed anyone on the music – 20 songs over 100-plus minutes proved their worth and brought cheers from the eager crowd.
Following “Kings & Queens,” just his third song in, the 43-year-old artist expressed his fondness for the area.
“I love Grand Rapids,” he said. “It’s beautiful…in the summer,” he added with a smile.
On this acoustic tour, Kearney brought along just two players (keys and percussion), but opening act Mark Scibilia played lap steel and electric guitar for most of Kearney’s set.
Among the musical highlights were a pleasing “Sooner or Later,” with its sudden, a capella ending; and the hand-clapping fun of “Hey Mama,” which brought the crowd to its feet.
But the ever-hat-wearing Kearney took the time to recall his West Michigan concerts over a nearly two-decade recording career.
The Intersection, Calvin College (now University), Holland (at Hope College) and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park all were mentioned as venues where the artist has performed.
“Is there security here?” he asked jokingly, remembering that an overly-enthusiastic spectator actually made her way onto the stage during his performance at Meiejer Gardens in 2021.
During his spoken-verse/sung chorus oldie “Undeniable,” Kearney added a freestyle verse mentioning several local landmarks, as well as his memorable concert experience on the Gardens’ outdoor stage.
Kearney’s genre-mixing style is developed with plenty of lyrical “woo-woos” and “na-na-nas” which make for great sing-alongs and spotlight his melodic jumps and vocal inflections.
And his performing style demonstrates how he “owns” each of his songs; placing his stamp on his best known tunes such as the encore-anchoring “Nothing Left to Lose” and his pop gem “Closer to Love.”
In another nod to the personal, Kearney performed “New York to California,” a song he said he rarely sings live. He slipped up as he forgot a few lyrics, which then were prompted by one of his band members.
“It’s been a while,” grinned the artist.
And there was one more revealing story from the forthcoming Kearney, a personal tale he said he has never before told an audience: how it came to be that his first name, Mat, has only one “t.”
To make a long story short, that’s how it appears on his birth certificate.
“We know each other better now,” he said after the personal aside. He had said earlier he felt he was among friends, and that friendship was confirmed by the crowd’s response.
Yet another surprise came after the expected “Nothing Left to Lose” encore: Kearney and two bandmates stepped to the front of the stage, and without microphones or instruments sang a couple choruses of the Bob Dylan standard “I Shall Be Released.” It was a serene moment in an evening that melded the musical and the personal.
Meanwhile, Scibilia opened the evening with an eight-song solo set, including self-revelatory songs such as “90s” – the artist is a child of that decade – and “Summer Clothes,” which tells the story of his father’s melancholy about his 18-year-old aspiring-artist son moving away from home.
St. Cecilia Music Center’s Acoustic Cafe Folk Series continues Jan. 29 with singer-songwriter Patty Griffin. Details here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mat Kearney at St. Cecilia Music Center
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek
SET LIST: Mat Kearney at St. Cecilia Music Center
1. Fire and Rain
2. Count On Me
3. Kings & Queens
4. City of Black & White
6. Anywhere With You
8. Learning to Love Again
9. All I Need
10. Air I Breathe
11. Wanted Man
12. Closer to Love
13. New York to California
14. Sooner or Later
15. One Black Sheep
16. Ships in the Night
17. Hey Mama
19. Nothing Left to Lose
20. chorus of “I Shall Be Released” (Bob Dylan)
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