I have always been an adamant fan of Matt Pond for the subtle hooks and echoing percussion he puts out with the help of a full band in some of my favorite records, like The Nature of Maps and If You Want Blood. Though Pond himself has been the only consistent member behind Matt Pond PA, the full band sound this project brings has always carried over a distinct style in its songwriting and instrumentals from line-up change to line-up change. I’ve had the pleasure of catching Matt Pond PA several times in different incarnations as members have come and gone. But at Chicago’s Subterranean I caught Matt Pond playing live as just Matt Pond with no PA tagged on. If it weren’t clear where the distinction in the band’s songwriting came from already, the evening’s performance pointed it out tenfold.
Having spent the last month on tour alongside Rocky Votolato, Matt Pond walked onto the Sub-T stage and almost immediately professed his love for the time he had spent on the road, saying the tour had been the best he’d ever been on. It was apparent that the show was bittersweet for the songwriter as he began to play to a room he was obviously ecstatic to see filled but was also sorry to say would be his last stop on the tour.
Though this wasn’t a performance as a complete band, Matt was not entirely alone on stage. Joining his guitar/vocals combo were a cello and a second electric guitar, providing just enough support to giving Matt’s songs the body they need to stand out, but not so much that the set didn’t have the stripped down quality that usually comes out when a front man plays apart from his band. The lack of formal percussion emphasized the vulnerability that Matt Pond has so perfectly managed to hone in his vocals. The warm earnestness that pours out of this musician makes every song seem incredibly personal without ever seeming too wounded or self-pitying, like you’ve walked in on him practicing and he hasn’t noticed you standing in the door just yet.
After announcing that he has finally decided to accept an apology from the room of Chicagoans for the Blackhawks beating out the Flyers last year, the East Coast native sipped from a bottle of Stella Atrois, and said, “Rocky fucking Votolato!” to welcome his tour-mate on stage to sing “New Hampshire”. After a pretty performance of “Lily”, Matt wrapped up the night with the appropriately titled “Last Song” and said goodnight with very little fanfare or showboating.
I’ve been told that it’s no coincidence that the most admirable people are also the most modest and Matt Pond is the definition of that phrase personified. I have always thought that it would be impossible to find something to genuinely dislike about this musician and this night with him at Subterranean confirmed my suspicions. For those of you that didn’t catch this tour, I strongly suggest you be better prepared to catch Matt Pond next time he’s in town; his is a show that should not be missed.