It’s not hard to forget that Matt Corby (the man behind the tune perched at number 3 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 – ‘Brother’) once tore it up as a 15-year old on the ill-fated Australian Idol series, rending many a teenage girl’s heart limp with puppy-love and sending music industry apparatchiks into a feeding frenzy. The kid-sized manifestation undoubtedly had talent, but the man-sized version has that and more. Having successfully dodged the ultimate artistic stagnation that is now associated with Idol alumni (see Callea, Sebastian, Noll et al), Corby has spent the best part of four years building something completely separate from that enterprise; an effort that has culminated recently in the aforementioned recognition from Triple J.
Team lee & me, along with scores of other expectant punters, had the privilege of bearing witness to the fruits of his labour in the comfort of a secret garden in North Wollongong on the 29th January 2012. The afternoon began with two support acts (the names of which were somehow unclear) that held the crowd’s attention with hushed ballads and folksy murmurings. Thankfully, the good Lord held off the impending storm (spurts of rain in the second act had led to a hurried distribution of makeshift ponchos), and Corby took the stage. It sounds a little wanky, but the dude carries with him an air of humility and tentativeness that belies the bucket-loads of talent; often stopping between songs to tell stories and hilariously awkward anecdotes, the Matt Corby show was refreshingly bereft of the showmanship that you would probably expect from a man well-acquainted with national airwaves.
And the music? It’s hard to describe. At once ethereal and stripped-down, the live renditions of tracks from his studio releases took on a new form. Somehow, the angst apparent in ‘Brother’ was magnified by the unhinged nature of a man with only his voice and a guitar; the precariousness of the situation exposed as he screamed out the final lines (‘you couldn’t help out your own neighbour/you couldn’t tell it to his face’). Other set highlights included his covers (the classic ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Lonely Boy’ by The Black Keys), and his use of a loop station at various times during the set to create delightful harmonies and layers of ambience. Adjectives are unfortunately limited in describing the experience; you would do well to get yourself to a Matt Corby show in the future. However, be prepared to lose yourself in the experience – that unfortunately blank facial expression that you sport when you’re either horribly tired or hopelessly enthralled will come out. But it’s okay, everyone else will be modelling the same look.
(Suss out recordings, upcoming shows etc. at mattcorby.com.au)
Image source: Radar Illawarra (Lara Barker)