A warm host with a healthy supply of between-song monologues, Matthew E White’s longest tale last night was about the male, late middle-aged segment of his fanbase and their impossibly high expectations.
Any greying critics here may have found fault with how different the Virginia singer-songwriter’s touring band sounded from his two remarkable albums. On record he has everything: strings, horns, gospel choirs, a sumptuous cushion of sound into which his soft voice can sink. Here vocals were sometimes lost amid ringing, duelling electric guitars.
Yet even when barely recognisable, as when the rollicking piano of Rock & Roll is Cold was replaced by dense layers of guitar, the songs worked. Earlier this year he performed them solo on piano in a London church. Here they were reborn again for this raw quartet, with the tumbling rhythms of Fruit Trees and restless pace of Big Love proving sturdy enough to host wild additional solos.
Hiding behind a wall of hair, White seemed an unlikely label boss, whose Spacebomb Records and its fully stocked in-house band have produced two of the albums of the year: White’s Fresh Blood and the self-titled debut from Natalie Prass. Those rich recordings are the best places to experience his sound, but this louder guise was a fun diversion.