By Nadia Backory – 22/8/20 at Perth Concert Hall.
Photo credits Sheldon Ang
He smears his tears across a face engraved with the lines of consternation, embracing the grace of religious sanctity, while standing before “999” – the Angel number 9 symbolising completeness and finality in the bible.
He continues to pluck as if the strings are his saviour, with every harmony renewing his soul against the emotional fortress that’s seemingly impervious to a single whiff of hope. Toxicity has been brewing from the abyss, percolating and finally culminating to this very moment as he gallantly rips his shirt, blowing away the dark clouds that have been preventing the ray of light from spearing into his life. It’s time to roar again.
“It is OK to let it out…there are people sending me messages, saying they would love to come but anxiety prevents them from attending.”
Tonight’s performance transcends the music of ARIA alumni Matt Gresham. It also personifies the celebration of acceptance, accountability, defeating the inevitable demons, and the yearning to shatter life’s obstacles. “999” is about moving on, and rebirth.
Gresham graced the stage with the simplicity of a neighbourhood solo artist (a.k.a. busker) and was welcomed by a raucous, albeit a capacity-limited, seated crowd. Just like Ed Sheeran whom he toured with across Europe a few years ago, he was only armed with his acoustic guitar, without sonic and vocal backups or any of electronic gizmos. Perth Concert Hall will likely be one the biggest venues to host an artist for some time, and, for most, it was a privilege to be under the roof of the prestigious venue, as the rest of the country remained in lockdown.
The surfing enthusiast from Rockingham opened with ‘Home’ – I picked up my life and I stuffed it in my bag / One-way ticket and I’m never coming back. It was a fitting spark to the night, given the journey that the artist has endured over the last couple of years since the suicide of his best friend. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, he ain’t returning to his vulnerable state.
For those who are not familiar with the works of the former X Factor and The Voice contestant, there were generational anthems performed – generously – including the renditions of Bill Withers’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay’, and unsurprisingly ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ as the encore by the legendary Leonard Cohen and Tina Turner.
And for many, his track, ‘Who Am I Now?’, from his 2018 album of the same name was one of the most anticipated renditions of the night. The track was also resuscitated on The Voice and subsequently peaked at number one ahead of the show’s coaches Guy Sebastian and songstress Delta Goodrem’s respective singles. Seems this track has been breathed a new life.
Around the Sound (ATS) caught up with Gresham and his family after the concert, where the revelry continued. One of his fans had mistaken the starting time by an hour, thus missing the entire concert. Having learnt this, Gresham’s manager, Tim Bradsmith, organised for a meeting at the after party, where she was personally serenaded with two songs.
When ATS said, “You remind us of Ed Sheeran when you play live, but you do sound like yourself,” he replied, “I love Ed Sheeran…I toured with him, where I played at the auditorium in Paris where Edith Piaf played.” Minutes later Gresham sang to his families and friends, ‘Thinking Out Loud’, with some twist by adding the ATS staff Sheldon and his partner, Georgia into the lyrics. It was an after party to be remembered.
Whether performing in Perth or Paris, Matt Grisham oozes sincerity with a dash of larrikinism. It was love in the time of Covid