Music

Live: Matthew Dear Loosens Up, Covers The xx At Music Hall Of Williamsburg

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Matthew Dear
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Tuesday, November 24

Better Than: Holy Ghost live (oh, snap!)

Matthew Dear is a dapper, initially restrained man. At the onset of last night’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg, the singer took the stage to a loop of reverbed guitars that played at least a full two minutes before his perfectly demure face peaked through a dim spotlight. The setup was eerie, as was what followed: We watched Dear clench the microphone so earnestly during “Honey” that his face shook and his knuckles turned white. Things changed, though.

“Experimental pop” is a broad term for what Dear does, but it’s perhaps the most fitting description. Anything else would be unjustly narrow. The figurehead of smooth electronic label Ghostly International, Dear has messed around with sultry solo work and full-on dance projects with his past few albums; last night’s show was a showcase for his newest release, Black City, a darker, synthier sound of the sort you might have heard wafting from a warehouse in the late ’80s. Tonight, we just danced. His band helped live: “Monkey”, a loosely constructed track of heavily reverbed synths, warped guitar loops, clattering cymbals backing a pulsating chorus of “Run away,” creates a swirl so easy to get lost in that by the end of the song, we’d barely noticed that the vocals have been almost entirely replaced by the crooning of Dear’s new trumpeter, Greg Paulus.

Paulus nearly stole the show. Replacing some of the higher synth melodies on the record, he fit in perfectly — his clean, sing-song quality pulled the show out of its vaguely sinister groove and into something a bit brighter. On “Shortwave,” Paulus augmented the wobbly guitar and congo-drum loop with vaguely Latin flavor; we had no idea what Dear was warbling below (save something about a “fabulous mansion”), but it doesn’t matter to the hundreds of kids dancing along. By the onset of “Tide,” had a maraca in hand and was dancing around himself.

The industrial stylings of “You Put a Smell on Me” was our personal highlight — doused in plenty of sexual innuendo, it’s noisy, unkempt, and hits hard. The song barely features Dear’s vocals — which had been a surprisingly smooth throughout — but there’s something about the deep suaveness behind his delivery of “You can take a ride in my big black car” that meshed perfectly with the grittiness of the track. We kept dancing. After a quick encore featuring his remix of the xx’s “VCR” (the audience’s favorite bit of the night), Matthew Dear’s leather pants walked off stage, far less restrained than when he’d walked on.

Critical Bias: Two things I’m into right now = A return to industrial music + progressive house.

Overheard: “Sweet pants.”

Random Notebook Dump: Who knows if this guy is friends with James Murphy?

Set List
Honey
Monkey
Fleece on Brain
Soil to Seed
Shortwave
Tide
Slowdance
You Put a Smell on Me
Little People (Black City)

(encore)
Innh Dahh
VCR [the xx cover]
Don & Sherri

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