It is rare to find a new artist in today’s music scene that can create a whole album worth purchasing as opposed to purchasing their one or two hit singles from iTunes. What is even more uncommon is to find a new artist who is as flawless on stage as he is on a studio recording, but singer/songwriter Mat Kearney has accomplished such a feat.Riding the benefits of opening for John Mayer in the fall and the success of his first radio single, title track “Nothing Left to Lose” (2006 Columbia Records), Mat Kearney played to a sell out crowd April 14 at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia.
The music of Mat Kearney blends poetic songwriting, spoken word, hip-hop and his Nashville roots together with his acoustic guitar and on occasion, adding piano.
Kearney, headliner of the VH1 sponsored “You Oughta Know Tour,” kicked off his performance on South Street after The Feeling and Rocco Delocco and The Burden opened up the evening. Taking his place in front of the mic, greeted the packed house with the upbeat, energetic rock tune “Crashing Down.” From the opening song, Kearney’s confidence, mastery of guitar and wide range of vocals clearly pointed to both his natural talent and the forthcoming incredible hour and half performance.
Any questions regarding whether or not a man from Oregon could actually rap was quickly answered as Kearney followed with “Girl America,” a song speaking to the tragic hardships of young girls being victims of a materialistic twenty-first century. He got the crowd involved, singing along with Kearney as he cried “I’m gonna be alright” during “In the Middle.” Kearney next transitioned into “I Can’t Break Her Fall” and relived his second chance at life with “Renaissance.” Kearney, whose lyrics are honest, passionate and full of hope, first slowed it down with the acoustic “Where We Gonna Go From Here.” He settled into his place in front of his piano for the refreshing “Won’t Back Down.”
The performance kicked up another notch as he returned to rapping the verses full of faith and love found in “Bullet.” Kearney introduced a recently written love song, explaining that “City of Black and White” was written while he stayed in Turkey, where Europe and Asia converge. Kearney wooed the crowd later with the heartfelt “Chicago,” written as he felt alone on Valentine’s Day.
Kearney, whose music has been heard on the popular series “Grey’s Anatomy,” hit every high note and key playing the breakthrough “Nothing Left to Lose” before leaving the stage.
The light came back up as Kearney walked back out for the encore to the cheering crowd. Taking a seat at his piano, Kearney outdid himself during “All I Need,” a remarkable ballad that started slow and soft and grew into a spectacular, guitar-laced visual and audio climatic experience.
Kearney took his guitar one last time, capping the incredible evening with the soon to be released second hit single, “Undeniable,” even adding a freestyle rap about his love and appreciation for Philadelphia. From start to finish, whether it was rapping, hitting high notes, or building piano anthems, new artist Mat Kearney demonstrated why his tour has been selling out across the nation and fan base growing exponentially.
If a stranger to Kearney, check out his infectious music accessible to listeners of all tastes on MySpace or pickup his album, “Nothing Left to Lose,” now. Before too long, Kearney will be a stranger to none.