One of my favourite holiday traditions is the Stuart McLean & the Vinyl Cafe Christmas concert. For those who don't know Stuart McLean, he's a CBC radio personality and host of the Vinyl Cafe radio show, which is a weekly hour of storytelling, essays, and music. The Vinyl Cafe concert is held every December at Convocation Hall (with the exception of a brief stint at Massey Hall last year) and it's one of my favourite parts of the holiday season.
I go with friends and family, bring cookies and munch along to some heart-warming stories, great Christmas music and really Stuart's stories which are both heartwarming and hilarious. The other part of the show is music: Stuart does a marvelous job of finding relatively unknown Canadian musical talent from across the country and then brings them on the road with the show. In previous years I've been privy to some great performances and always look forward hearing the new talent.
This year the featured musicians were Jill Barber and Matt Andersen. Jill Barber sang first, and was lovely - a blend of jazzy with a bit of Betty Boop. Next up was Matt Andersen. He's from the East Coast and has won a couple of East Coast music awards. Guess why? Because he is amazing.
He came out on stage and sang "So Gone Now" (one of his own songs) and BLEW ME AWAY. And when I say me, I mean everyone. When he started singing, you could sense a shift in the audience, a pinpointing of attention and alertness as everyone became captivated. I'm talking serious talent. His voice is a blend of raw blues and sheer power -and he's not too shabby on the guitar either.
In the second half of the show, he sang "O Holy Night" and literally blew the roof off. Everyone was transfixed and I had shivers and a tear or two in my eye. He was magnificent. One curtain call and a standing ovation later and the audience was still in love with him.
His gig is blues & rock - and his style is very raw. The rawness combined with the sheer power of his voice is astounding. I'm going to be keeping an eye out for him - and suggest you do the same. My heartfelt thanks to Stuart McLean for one of my favourite musical moments of the year.
Here's Matt performing "So Gone Now" at a Vinyl Cafe performance from earlier this year.