Kicking off the Easter Long weekend, Matt Costa played a show at the Electric Owl with fellow American Carly Ritter. She has a beautiful voice and was a nice compliment to Matt Costa. I was surprised by the skill level of her band and the power in her voice but found too many of the songs had the same mid-tempo sound throughout. And really, I was so eagerly anticipating Matt Costa that I found it hard to focus completely on this opening performance.
After a long 3 years, Matt Costa finally returned to Vancouver. He made the most unusual of venue choices, deciding to perform at the Electric Owl on the outskirts of Chinatown as opposed to the larger venues he had previously performed at, including the Commodore and more recently, Venue. Given the extraordinarily small venue, I expected only the biggest on longest standing fans to be there. Instead, I was quite surprised by the number of people there who had never been to a Matt Costa show before and were not too familiar with his work in-between Songs We Sing (2005/6) and his most recent self-titled album, released just this year. He opened his set with “Mr. Pitiful” which soon had the entire place bouncing. My love of the piano and the energy with this he plays is captivating and I was quickly hooked. He nicely weaved in newer and older material but I was surprised that, for a crowd who mostly had never seen Matt Costa play before, most were really only familiar with his older tunes, particularly, “Sunshine,” “Astair” and “Cold December,” the last of which he chose to play as an acoustic solo encore. One of my personal favourites is the title track off his Mobile Chateau album. Matt Costa was fairly quiet throughout the set, acknowledging and thanking the crowd but not talking to us very much. In some ways, that was necessary as the crowd remained at a dull roar of chatter throughout the set. I am often annoyed by the more often than not typical Vancouver crowd that can’t pause their conversations or raise their awareness to the experience around them to be silent during the more quiet moments in songs. Aside from the dull roar of crowd chatter, I enjoyed Matt’s explanation for where the song Mobile Chateau came from and for putting time, place and context to the beautiful song. After the show, Matt came out to the merch table to sign tour posters and albums. He took the time to sit with each fan and talk to them. It was a really nice personal touch, and the process did not look rushed or forced the way sometimes it does at autograph signings. I asked Matt why he chose such a small venue when coming back to Vancouver, especially because he could easily sell out a larger venue. His response? He enjoys the intimacy of smaller crowds. To his credit, the Electric Owl was perfect- it was small, cozy and really up close and personal. After he left the stage, everyone around me was on a “music high” — excited and gushing with the exuberant energy and passion that Matt Costa just shared with us all. I consider myself one of the lucky few able to have been there to soak it all in.