If you take a gig for something called "BBQ Beach Party," you'd think there would be some pretty decent grub on hand. But that wasn't exactly the case for Lexington native Matt Nathanson last Friday.
FINGER LICKIN’ GOOD Or, at least the licks — and quips — were good at Matt Nathanson’s City Hall Plaza show.
"Dude, I've been eating barbecue all day," he told me before the show. "And it's not even good barbecue, like, you know when you're the bottom-billed band and the headliner gets all the good drugs and you get the weak shit?"
Despite stepped-on barbecue and one of the colder, wetter June nights on record, a sizable crowd enthusiastically sang along to Nathanson's made-for-radio folk-pop, much of it culled from his just-released Modern Love (Vanguard). There was also his by-now obligatory cover of James' "Laid" and a set-ending "Here I Go Again," the Whitesnake anthem older than the early-twentysomething women who made up the majority of the audience.
Nathanson's almost as well known for his comedic stage banter as for his music, and he had timely, homegrown material to ease into his return home from San Francisco, where the 38-year-old has lived since the mid-'90s. "Whitey in the house?" he offered after taking the stage, referring to the mobster who had been arraigned across town hours before. "How do they fight in these things?" he then asked, tugging at his snug Bruins jersey. "I tell you what, when I put this on, I wanted to kick somebody's ass!"
A self-confessed music nerd, Nathanson grew up at a time when "Suzanne Vega would sell out the Orpheum," but it took a while to find his own success. That came with his 2007 Vanguard release, Some Mad Hope, propelled by the single "Come On Get Higher" and the slew of TV shows that picked up that and other songs.
"By the sixth record you're like, 'What the fuck? Why is this person shooting past me?' All of a sudden when your song starts to get traction on a big level and sells a couple hundred thousand copies, it's like dating a hot girl finally. You're like, 'Dude — I'm not a fucking leper.' "