Matthew Good with Craig Stickland at the Commodore Ballroom, 2/16/17
When it comes to iconic albums, everyone has their favourite songs, even the musicians themselves. 90s Can-rocker Matthew Good is no exception. He recently re-worked five of his favourites from the Matthew Good Band’s most commercially successful album, 1999’s Juno Award-winning Beautiful Midnight, and released them as the I Miss New Wave EP last December. To celebrate the new release, he’s been playing Beautiful Midnight in full on a Canada-wide tour that has included not one, not two, but three sold out shows in a row at Vancouver’s legendary Commodore Ballroom.
Matthew Good’s hand-picked opener Craig Stickland – that’s “stick-land, like two words” – broke through the crowd’s early chatter and won them over with looped acoustic guitar, vocal backtracks which he used to harmonize with himself, and endearing love songs. “I’ll break every rule in the book for you, babe, just to prove that I am worth your time,” he sang on “Break Every Rule”. And that was how he began his set.
He introduced “Starlit Afternoon” as a song about falling in love at a music festival, during the time of day when the sun’s about to set, and the moon’s about to rise, so the sun, the moon, and the stars are all in the sky at the same time. “Oh my god, I know this moment!” someone behind me gushed. Smoky slow-burner “Warning” was about seeing the danger in somebody but going for them anyway. The reason he goes for it in those situations, he confided, was more relatable than falling in love at a music festival: “For me, it’s sex.” “Oh god, don’t get me started on that situation…” another person behind me groaned with a laugh.
Stickland was on a clear roll, but he stumbled in expressing his gratitude. “Besides Matt, I can’t think of another band that’s done more for the Canadian music industry,” he said about being picked by Good to open. Despite Stickland’s sincerity, his grandiose statement immediately prompted objection from one audience member who began shouting out names including Big Wreck and Our Lady Peace. Someone else more quietly chimed in with the Tragically Hip. Stickland had no choice but to chuckle at himself for having gotten got and coincidentally(?) assuaged the contention with a cover of the Hip’s “Bobcaygeon”. The crowd quickly forgave his misstep and sang every word of the all-time Canadian classic.
The familiar sounds of cheerleaders led Matthew Good and his three band mates onstage. It didn’t take long for fans join the cheerleaders’ chorus of “K-I-C-K-A-S-S! That’s the way we spell ‘SUCCESS’!” on Beautiful Midnight’s opening song “Giant”. Before he even reached the second chorus, fans already started crying “He’s so good!!” in near-disbelief.
Fans had no trouble whatsoever carrying Good’s top hits like “Hello Time Bomb”, “The Future Is X-Rated”, and most popular of all, “Load Me Up”. If anyone hadn’t sung those songs in years, the words evidently flooded back to them, like muscle memory of the tongue.
Good switched to acoustic for a few numbers including “Strange Days” and the melancholy “Suburbia”, reminding everyone that he created some of his best work when he slowed things down. Slow didn’t mean quiet though. Both “I Miss New Wave” and “Born to Kill” rocked until they avalanched at their climaxes.
Even though Good had two more back-to-back shows at the Commodore to play, he still treated the first night’s audience to a four-song encore after he played through Beautiful Midnight. “Apparitions” worked surprisingly well with lap steel, against general expectations. “A Single Explosion” and “Born Losers” gave fans of his third solo album Hospital Music something extra to cheer about. And finally, “Weapon”, his first solo single from 2003’s Avalanche, made fans lose their minds, holler “OH MY GOD!!!” and “YEAH, BUDDY!!!” and hi-five the strangers around them.
Despite touring in support of the EP of reworked material, Good played every song the way they originally appeared except “Born to Kill” which resembled the heavier updated version. Presumably, Good acknowledged that classics can’t be tampered with too much, even by their creator.
Matthew Good may be known for being an asshole (he even sold updated shirts at the show that said “I hear Matt Good’s STILL a real asshole”), but when it comes to bringing people together and putting on an A+ performance on the first night of a three-show run, the 90s CanCon figurehead is anything but a slouch