Live Review: Matt Corby - O2 Kentish Town Forum, London 29/01/19

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At the first of two nights at Kentish Town Forum, in support of his second album ‘Rainbow Valley’, Matt Corby commanded the stage with a carefree confidence that has seldomly been seen in his career. 

Whilst ‘Rainbow Valley’ may be the name of Matt Corby’s second album: the name holds so much more weight than that. In my mind, ‘Rainbow Valley’ is its own tiny universe. It is the place in outback Australia, where Corby lives with his partner and son – around the time of making the album, he became a father for the first time. If it wasn’t for the relocation to the nature reserve, the album would not have existed. Corby has said that although he was writing songs, he “wasn’t really considering making a full record.” With this upheaval and the necessity to re-evaluate his life, ‘Rainbow Valley’ birthed a new side to Corby: a side that is more confident, experimental and in a sense, completely new. 

In a distinct departure from his debut ‘Telluric’, Corby decided to simplify the album writing process by recording all instruments himself. With this in mind, I was incredibly curious to see how he would re-arrange his live shows. For the last few years, he has had a consistent touring band who is mostly made up of friends. At his album release event late last year, Corby said that his friends also have busy lives and are having kids, so he couldn’t expect them to just pack up and go on tour with him. I asked him if this meant that we would see him playing bass on stage, as well as guitar and keys, but he laughed it off saying that we would see what happens as it is incredibly hard to sing and play bass at the same time. Whilst he didn’t play bass on this tour, he did take to the drum kit for a few songs!

In previous years of seeing Matt Corby, live, he meekly strolls onto stage without saying too much and allows the music to do the talking. Tuesday night at Kentish Town Forum was a huge deviation from this. He almost came strutting on the stage; arms swinging by his sides and with a grin on his face. Whilst taking his shoes off and getting comfortable, he seemed to notice the excitable difference: “I’m going to stop talking and play.” The first three songs in the set matched that of the album track-listing. The dreamy ‘Light My Dart Up’ went straight into the kaleidoscopic and mesmerising ‘No Ordinary Life’. You could almost feel Corby’s relaxed nature through the way he played the keys and sang so effortlessly – it was almost as though you were given secret access to a jam session. ‘All That I See’ continued this effort with Corby clicking his fingers and two-stepping around his platform on the stage. 

It was almost dizzying to take in the how fluidly Corby transitioned between instruments. He played the drums during ‘New Day Coming’ and ‘Better’ which contain a lot more blues and funk elements than his previous songs. It was great to see him losing himself in the music and clearly enjoying himself. It was incredibly evident that having a baby has rejuvenated him. Now that music isn’t his sole focus, it is easier to take a step back and just let go. ‘Rainbow Valley’ is clearly a new chapter where Corby can experiment, rather than just be another guy that plays guitar. Acknowledging that he hadn’t played a London show for two years, whilst switching over to his guitar for the first time in the night, Corby commented that ‘it’s been a long time’ before delving into his back catalogue for ‘Sooth Lady Wine’ and ‘Brother’ – which is his very own Sex on Fire. Unsurprisingly, the crowd were ecstatic about hearing these songs thrown in with the newer ones, but Corby had some more surprises for them. 

‘Elements’, is driven by its bass line and to highlight the sparse guitar riff that tinkers in and out, there was a hint of jazzy psychedelia in the form of a trippy, rainbow light show. The outro was extended, with beautiful backing vocals that reminded me of Massive Attack. “It’s so nice to be back in London with you motherfuckers […] it’s been an absolute pleasure” continued Corby, with gratitude, as he told the crowd he only had a few more songs left. ‘Empires Attraction’ was a nice addition to him playing older songs, but it was when he threw in ‘Souls A’fire’ that the crowd could no longer contain their excitement. It isn’t often that you see musicians as established as Corby is, play songs from their debut EP, that aren’t singles. Leaving the crowd for a few moments to revel in the pleasantry, Corby ended the set with ‘Miracle Love’ and asked them to sing along, like a church choir to the final chorus. The day after, at his second show in the Kentish Town Forum, Corby noted that he felt “like Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act’ trying to rile the crowd up and sing louder.

Matt Corby has truly found a new spark of confidence within his musical capabilities and somehow this performance sounded more crisp and powerful than his studio recordings. If you truly want to get a sense of his character, you must see him live. 

Words by Tyler Damara Kelly