Recently on a briskly bitter Chicago winter night a brand new venue, deemed The Mid, welcomed to their stage a pair of live bands for the very first time. Loyal Divide took to the stage first, followed by Matthew Dear. It turned out that The Mid was a solid venue for both of these bands. With dim, but variously colored, lights spread our among the floor and bar combined with the “medium size” feel – which allowed for the place to feel full of energy yet not be cramped – it made for a splendid atmosphere for one to catch some tunes.
Loyal Divide on this evening was decidedly “in the pocket”, as they have been often as of recently. Playing primarily material from their up-and-coming LP, “Bodice Ripper”, along with one new and unheard track thrown in their for good measure, they placated all the attendees shuffling in from the frigid exterior. On this evening they gave the audience the treat of having a saxophonist join them for a number of songs, which is not a new occurrence for them – but also isn’t one to be expected every time they perform either. Effecting the sound of the sax into a gritty-verbed incarnation really helps add to certain songs, such as DDF and Baladron. Except for one having some trouble hearing the lyrics articulated, the sound on this evening was well balanced, and pleasantly loud without being overbearing. Even famed local concert attendee, “Dancing Man” was there is his unique garb and frantically getting down in his own unrepeatable manner. LD solidly set the tone for the evening.
Shortly thereafter the main act of the night took to the stage, Matthew Dear. In full disclosure, this author had never heard one song from this act prior to this show, but it didn’t take long before one could realize they were in for a real tuneful treat. Matthew Dear, the stage name of the lead singer and writer of the music, has apparently been a DJ and creator of music for sometime, but only more recently has taken on a full band – a wise choice. Matthew Dear is a 4 piece band comprised of the lead singer/keyboardist, bassist, drummer (on both an organic set as well as electronic), and a trumpeter/synthesizer player. Their sound could be described as an amalgamation of The Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and a dash of David Bowie. It definitely entailed a substantial 1980’s feel, but with a contemporary indie type of energy and zest.
Matthew Dear played mostly material from their recent LP “Black City.” Songs that were particularly absorbing on this evening were Little People (Black City), Monkey, and the wonderfully named You Put A Smell On Me. On each of these tracks they create a broodingly wide quasi-dark sound, that is collocated with up-beat and dance-inspiring beats. The vocals were almost always effected to be sonorous and gritty, as was the trumpet – which was used to highlight the music in an unexpected manner. And while the LP Black City is amazing, and worth getting, it was clear that this band’s live show is much better (which is not a knock at all on the LP, only a compliment to their show).
The differenced lied within the all encompassing energy of their live sound, and the plateau of gyrating energy which they established and then never once abandoned. The result was that soon one found themselves in a mass of people cheerfully dancing, as not moving to the music seemed almost sinful. Also, their lighting scheme, and dress, focused mostly on white and black (with the occasional deep purple also being used) and was used to great advantage. At times Matthew would even hold a exceptionally bright white LED lights close to his face while he sang, or pointed it out toward the audience in dramatic ways. The description may sound hackneyed, but in truth proved the showmanship of the band and positively added to the experience of the audience. In all, it was one of the best shows this author has attended in some time, and should you find yourself with the opportunity of catching Matthew Dear, please do yourself a favor and do so.