Barely a week after releasing his fourth album, singer-songwriter Mat Kearney and his band embarked on a twenty city tour. The legendary Warfield Theatre played host to the fifth show of the Just Kids tour on March 10th. The night kicked off with the Nashville-based Judah & the Lion. They later came out to join Mat for a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” J&TL brought back their mandolin and banjo, adding what I found to be a very pleasant Southern touch to the song. Both bands huddled together, joining in what can only be described as a bit of a jig.
Next to the stage was the pop-rock band Parachute. The five-piece band is fronted by Will Anderson, a Sacramento native. Anderson, in his candor and appearance, reminded me of a less-douchey Adam Levine. Judging by the hundred-plus line of mostly women to get a picture with him, I would say they agreed. His good looks, passionate vocals and audience engagement all contributed to an exciting supporting performance. Numerous times he reminded the crowd that he was just there to “warm up” our voices so we could sing even louder during Mat Kearney’s set. The band played a number of hits off their 2013 album Overnight as well as their 2011 single that seemed to take over our radios, “Kiss Me Slowly.”
Taking the stage a few minutes before his scheduled time of 9:30 pm, Mat Kearney opened with “Heartbreak Dreamer,” the first song off the new album. The bridge, a part of Anis Mojgani’s “Shake the Dust” poem, was cut to play as the band took the stage. Mat entered last, wearing the same hat featured in all of his latest press photos. The 21-song set, lasting just until the 11:00 pm curfew, featured only five songs off Just Kids: “Heartbreak Dreamer,” “Moving On,” “One Black Sheep,” “Heartbeat,” and “Billion.” Just less than a quarter of the songs performed were off the latest album, which seemed a bit surprising considering this tour is supporting Just Kids. For many of the newer songs, Mat’s guitar took a backseat, allowing him to run around the stage rapping. During “Undeniable,” Mat gave lead guitarist Tyler Burkum a brief solo before bringing the spotlight back to him, rapping at least two verses completely improvised. One of the final lines: “I want a house in Sausalito so damn bad.” This excited the crowd wildly, only bested by his mid-song performance on the barricades in the middle of the audience during “Runaway.”
The night was heavy with older songs, spanning all four of his albums. Mat seemed disappointed when fans didn’t know the lyrics to “City of Black and White,” from his 2009 album. However, it seemed more were familiar with “Undeniable,” and “Where We Gonna Go From Here,” stretching back to his 2004 and 2006 releases. Mat’s hip hop roots were clearly evident throughout the night, something we discussed in depth in our interview a few weeks ago (link here).
During “She Got the Honey,” Mat and bassist Phillip Moore performed a bit of a choreographed dance routine that ended in the both of them laughing. Their buddy-friendship brought smiles to us all. Later on, Mat grabbed a fan’s cell phone and proceeded to take selfies and a video. It seems that this has become all too common during live shows — though I can’t complain, I would be thrilled if my favorite artist took a selfie on my phone. During “Billion,” Mat locked eyes with the girl standing in front of me and she struggled to hold back tears of excitement.
Just before “Billion,” Mat had an extra mic plugged into a vocoder to play around with his vocals and to add harmonies to the chorus. During “Just Kids,” the first of two songs in the encore, Mat had a mini synth hooked up to play a vocal track of him rapping the words “just kids,” in different keys corresponding to the notes. He seemed to be enjoying tapping the keys one by one to create a unique sound.
I first saw Mat at an acoustic radio set in 2011 to promote his third album, Young Love. The crowd of mainly suburban moms didn’t know any of his songs besides the radio hit “Hey Mama” and he seemed genuinely disappointed. I’d been waiting since that night to see a full show of his, with a full band and at a real venue. It was definitely worth the wait.
Photos by Sam Engel // Senior Staff