Matt Nathanson Takes Rough Trade NYC for a Spin

October 7th, 2015

Matt Nathanson – Rough Trade NYC – October 6, 2015

Music can encapsulate moments in time, and Matt Nathanson reminds me of my early adult life in San Francisco. I first discovered him more than a decade ago opening for Jewel during a holiday radio gig and started following him as he played local coffee shops to headlining various venues around town. What struck me most about his performances was his witty repartee with audience members and his ability to woo a room with his charms. That charm has landed him on bills alongside Kelly Clarkson, Train and Michael Franti. Furthermore, his folk pop has seeped into several television shows, from NCIS to The Vampire Diaries, not to mention his cover of James’ “Laid” for the American Wedding soundtrack. Nathanson released his ninth studio album, Show Me Your Fangs, last week and graced his local fans with a sold-out appearance at Rough Trade NYC last night.

In an acoustic affair, the affable singer and his sidekick guitarist Aaron Tap took the stage alongside a large wheel bearing a slew of song titles from the Nathanson catalog. Drawing me in quickly with nostalgia, the first song, “Kinks Shirt,” referenced a gal strolling in the City by the Bay. The evening was a good blend of new material and oldies from way, way back in the day. In fact, one of the oldest tracks, “New Coats and New Hats,” was a result of the first spin of the wheel. An unforgiving dealer of songs and a contentious item throughout the evening, the wheel only seemed to incite more requests. Compromises were made, like when the pointer stopped at “Modern Love” although one peg over would have suggested “Bent.” Nathanson found a happy medium playing both and threw in a little interlude into Counting Crows’ “Anna Begins” for the latter. A fan suggested a mashup of all his songs, but the singer-songwriter quickly demonstrated why it would be a bad idea, ad-libbing themes from sadness to not letting go, boarding school and years of therapy.

Although the audience wasn’t especially cognizant, Nathanson delivered a fitting cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Continuing with the wheel madness, a fan hopped onstage to spin and pose à la Vanna White when it landed on another from the archives, “Amazing Again,” which had Nathanson reaching for his 12-string. He couldn’t help but rig the wheel to hit on “Answering Machine,” a much-requested song on the inception of a circular component of the tour. Nearing an almost-two-hour set, the remainder of the evening featured newer tracks, including “Giants,” “Washington State Fight Song” and the growing fan favorite “Bill Murray.” The man of the hour was deeply touched that his fans would yell and scream so passionately for his catalog. Unable to play everyone’s desired tunes, he was apologetic but certainly didn’t leave anyone unhappy. —Sharlene Chiu