By: Luke Ottenhof –
If the fire was lit many, many years ago by the likes of Neil Young and Randy Bachman, Matt Mays has the wood to keep it burning bright
Along with the help of Toronto’s July Talk, Nova Scotia’s Matt Mays blazed through nearly two hours of classics and new standards from his latest solo record, Coyote.
The self-proclaimed “East coast rock n’ roller, roll coastin’ east rocker” kicked off the latest leg of his tour in Ottawa last night with the first of a two-night stand at Ritual Nightclub.
Toronto’s July Talk lit up right at nine, and dragged the audience into a full-blown party. Frontcouple Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay were equal parts manic and mischievous, with Dreimanis dripping off Fay’s every hip-sway, and Fay looking like a thriftshop Lady Gaga with soul. The pair are like a demented, whiskey-soaked version of Stars’ Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell.
The five-piece dashed through a 45-minute set, with all the wild, feral craze of a dog in heat. Drenched in bluesy garage intentions, the ballsy sounds tangoed with Dreimanis’ antics, slapping himself, screaming wildly and biting Fay’s shoulder, begging for attention.
If ever there was a dead-ringer for Tom Waits’ gravel-growl, Dreimanis is it. The young frontman is a spitting-soundalike, with the quirk and devilry to match it.
Then the man himself took the stage, fit in a Canadian tuxedo. Joined by “the boys,” his five touring compadres, Mays burst into “Indio,” the latest single from Coyote. A rollicking, fun-loving tune, it set the mood high.
And it hardly came down. Mays’ warmth and charm were firing on all cylinders, the scraggly-haired frontman perpetually grinning and laughing with “the boys.”
The band departed, leaving Mays a lone-Coyote on the dim-lit platform. He plucked through the lighters-in-the-air anthem “Chase the Light” on his lonesome, exercising rare bits of restraint.
The band joined him again as they ripped into “Shining Eyes,” an upbeat rocker from the days of Matt Mays & El Torpedo. A few notable El Torpedo tunes made the bill, with the classics “Cocaine Cowgirl” and “City of Lakes” rounding out the bottom half of the setlist.
Before diving into the final song of the night, the keys danced with the intro to El Torpedo’s ballad, “Terminal Romance.” What followed must have been the gutsiest, most intense and profound nine-minutes of wholesome, Canadian rock this side of 1970’s “Southern Man.” Mays’ fiery belting and furious boat-in-a-storm swaying lit the eyes of a nearly sold-out crowd.
Mays’ loyalty to his roots will forever remain part of his music, and Monday’s raucous, kitchen-party feel did not disappoint.
Mays and July Talk will no doubt have some recovering to do before doing it all over again tonight at Ritual, for their last show in Ottawa. The incomparable musical combo takes it on the road to Montreal Wednesday night before rolling back out West across the Prairies later in the month.