This should come as no surprise to anyone who is at all familiar with his music or with the man himself. At Tuesday night's appearance at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, he channeled that moodiness in a powerful, if somewhat sombre, performance.
In the last few years, Good's music has been decidedly more introspective and sombre. Starting with the acoustic reworking of many of his hits on 2005's In a Coma, and culminating with the dark and intensely personal recent release, Hospital Music, Matt Good has been increasingly moving away from his rock hits of the past and into the dark recesses of his mind.
Many of the songs on Hospital Music were born during the several months he spent on a psychiatric ward, dealing with bipolar disorder, the breakup of his marriage, and his own subsequent breakdown. They are scathing and dark and highly personal, and they form the basis for Good's current tour.
The night opened with an upbeat set by Dala, a girl and guitar duo from Ontario. They had a wonderful stage patter, lively and funny banter, and lovely harmonies. They ended their set with an a capella rendering of Fever/Hit the Road Jack, while the rest of their set was original offerings. Think Canadian hetero Indigo Girls, and you get the idea.
Matt made a typically low-key but dramatic entrance, performing the opening song stock still on a darkened stage under a low blue light. He launched into a series of songs, mostly from the new albums, without any audience interaction, but then after about the third song, paused, had a casual sip of wine, and started chatting. Matt Good is, of course, famous, for his intelligence, his political savvy, his quick and sardonic humour, and his unwillingness to suffer fools. Amazing songs aside, righteous indignation has always been a high point of his concerts. When he rips into political systems, regimes, high-powered individuals, the audience eats it up.
There was really far too little of that on Tuesday night. There was a nice moment when he chastised some in the audience for the "fucking Alberta rivalry" being displayed, and questioned why people weren't instead pissed off at the provincial government. That was pretty great, vintage Good fare, culminating with "so don't waste your time booing Edmonton", followed by the perfectly comedically timed "unless of course there's a hockey game going on somewhere". And that launched into a gloriously hilarious rant about Vancouver Canuck uniforms, which somehow morphed into the speculation that eventually one Calgary Flames fan, wearing a flammable jersey, would be sacrificed each game (referring to the Flames' tradition of igniting a giant flame in the arena with each goal scored).
And then, it was as though a switch were turned off. The banter ended and the rest of the evening was heavily immersed in the intensity and at times gloominess of an acoustic set. Matt sounded wonderful, his voice as strong as it has ever been, his songs wonderfully wrought, but the bitterness and the intensely personal nature of the material made for a very moving and at times difficult show.
But no one, least of all Matthew Good, ever said it would be easy.
Metal Airplanes.mp3 (hospital music)