– by Tom Munday
Matt Grasham, Friday 12 December, Quarry Amphitheatre
Floreat’s Quarry Amphitheater turns up the heat each year. Cranking their lights on throughout each summer, the venue makes for a wonderful picnicking spot/brief romantic getaway. Carved into a bush land/hillside, the place was perfect for hit musician Matt Gresham’s overt glow. Gresham, as the sun set behind him, shuffled out on stage to thunderous applause. His look, complete with bleach-blonde hair, arm-covering tattoos, bushy beard and bare feet, lent a Fairbridge aura to the coastal area. The singer/songwriter warmed up with a poetic diatribe about his profession and existence. From this alone, the dreadlock-and-jacket-sporting crowd fell silent.
The gig, devoted specifically to die-hard fans and indie-music lovers, immediately became a celebration of the Rockingham-raised bloke’s still-young, X-Factor-boosted career. At first, his solemn attitude and laid-back personality seemed shaky. Maybe he was shaking off nerves? Or the chilly wind? Or just likes poetic diatribes? After the awkward introduction, his first notes stunned the already supportive crowd. Gresham, playing a duet with local talent Paige Valentine, hurled his haunting vocals throughout the region. Echoing across the arena, the higher notes were pushed out with gruff intensity. From the get-go, the man established the purpose of the event – for family, friends, and the good people of Western Australia.
The first act divulged in several of his biggest and best efforts. Scorching through ‘Whiskey’, his raw stage presence and raw sound sent the crowd into overdrive. His performance of ‘Mother’ was a sultry ode to the people closest to him. Between songs, his enthusiastic sense of humour and soft-spoken persona added heart and soul to the weekend-igniting occasion. His self-deprecating style even developed a spirited dynamic between singer and crowd. Certain audience members, throwing whoops and cheers at him, were dealt quick-witted blows.
Despite the song-break entertainment, Gresham’s soulful music was worth the admission cost. Switching between acoustic and slide guitars, ‘Stand Up’ showcased his extraordinary acoustic sound and unique talents. Utilising each aspect of his instruments, he struck up eclectic beats and rhythms throughout. Gresham, constantly experimenting with unique riffs and strums, is a true artist. Conducting the crowd through several heart wrenching choruses, his renditions of ‘Everybody’ and ‘Hold the Throne’ pulled everyone on board for the following two acts. He and his sari-and-dreads-toting mother, Sue, ended this section with a touching duet of ‘Eternal Unafraid’. Her piercing vocals added to the concerts’ blues/folk/roots atmosphere. Soon enough, the gig became a celebration of life, love, music, and skateboarding.
The second half took everything up a notch; delivering up-beat, spirited renditions of some of Gresham’s best songs. As the sky transitioned from light to dark, his digging-into-each-string style displayed a primal energy unlike any other local artist. His fearsome version of ‘Lioness’ added kooky improve lyrics to this already jaunty and engaging track. He even this rendition into a medley, with satirical pop covers of ‘All About That Bass’ and ‘Hit the Road, Jack!’. His cover of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ accentuated a searing melody and Gresham’s significant talents. His renditions of ‘Songs We’ve Sung; (dedicated to song-writing hub Point Perin), resonator-sporting ‘Roll Away’ (honouring his brother and friend), and ukulele-sporting ‘Chelsea’ (dedicated to his sister) closed out the second act with panache and vigour.
As his guitar collection swayed in the wind, Gresham came back out one last time. Switching to the electric guitar, he launched into smooth versions of ‘Don’t Take My Woman’ and ‘Gracetown’. Honouring WA’s brightest and most beautiful locations, ‘Gracetown’ became warmly received by his impatient and ‘excitable’ audience. As the mosh pit grew, and major fans screamed with passion, Gresham settled everyone down with a soothing rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and ‘Get Up, Stand Up’. Throughout the final third, his sense of humour seeped into certain tracks. At one point, one rendition took left turns into ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘Milkshake’. Clearly, he loves looking back and laughing at prior experiences (specifically, Redfoo’s antics on the X-Factor).
The set standout belonged to Valentine, diving straight through revelatory blues ballad ‘Beautiful Mess’. Soon after, the singer/songwriter tore chunks off hit musician/tour buddy Ben Harper’s ‘Waiting For An Angel’ and popular tear-jerker ‘Hallelujah’. He then threw caution to the wind with catchy track ‘We Are Not Criminals’. This eclectic number threw country vibes into this wide-ranging performance. Waltzing back into Marley hits, his version of ‘One Love’ conducted the already buzzing mosh pit. Inviting friend/reggae lover Georgie up on stage, the finale celebrated equality and positive vibes. His encore, strutting through ‘Count Your Blessings’ and ‘See the world’, paid homage to the local music scene. Ending the gig with John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, the performance relished in Gresham’s underrated-but-assertive qualities.
Photo Credit: Isadora Jarosek, more photos available at the Colosoul facebook page