Phosphorescent – Live at the Music Hall
Matthew Houck’s Muchacho tour has already generated one tremendous live album. Muchacho De Lujo came out in October 2013 and contained a full concert recorded at St Pancras’ Church in London. Now there’s a new live album recorded over four nights at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in New York. This time, the result is eight tracks from the record of interest, plus three from Here’s To Taking It Easy, and two from both Pride and Aw Come Aw Wry. Maybe because the tracks have been cherry-picked from the different sets, this is an even better collection. There’s a great mood. The playing is tight. And there’s a never a sense of just playing studio songs live. These are versions that poke around in the dusty old corners of the originals, usually coming up with something of interest. So, here, sung solo on keyboards ‘Muchacho’s Tune’ undergoes a remarkable transformation emerging as an almost jaunty, audience-participation sing-along. And the previously almost painfully fragile deep cut, ‘Dead Heart’, now swaggers out of the speakers. And perhaps it’s no coincidence. In his earliest incarnations as Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck seemed like an artist racked with self-doubt. The sound was gloriously angstful and always on the edge of a musical breakdown. Now, he exudes confidence. He knows that his career has been on an upward trajectory and he also knows that Muchacho is a truly great album. He’s right on both counts. And with these two live releases, it’s as if he wants to capture this moment of his musical life so that he’ll never forget the difference between then and now. And he’s right to do that too. After all, who knows what will follow Muchacho? Maybe it’ll end up being the pinnacle of his career. If so, then there’s a record of it for posterity. But if Matthew Houck has shown us one thing, it’s that he’s a really clever guy. He’s a learner. So, Live at the Music Hall might be just a place marker, and a throughly enjoyable one at that, but it might also end up signalling the end of one period in his career and the start of another even better one. Now that’s a really nice thought.