Soul’s A Fire: Matt Corby the Unintended Headline Act at Communion

There is something very special about beating the rush and getting to see a phenomenal artist before they really ‘make it’. This particular artist though, Matt Corby, has actually already ‘made it’ in his homeland but as yet hasn’t been fully unleashed on the UK market where he is sure to shine and gain his greatest level of recognition to date.

Last night I experienced this sensation when I visited the Notting Hill Arts Club for a gig hosted by Communion record label where Torches were meant to be the headline act but had their limelight somewhat taken by the last-minute special guest who announced his place on the billing just three days before the gig.

Matt Corby Singer

Australia’s Matt Corby is signed to Communion and will be embarking on his first ‘proper’ tour of Europe this Autumn/Winter

Matt Corby, if you haven’t come across him yet, is an Australian ‘singer/songwriter’ who has taken a rather unusual route to the verge of stardom having begun his singing career by appearing on Australian Idol at a very tender age, where he made it all the way through to the latter stages before being eliminated at the last. Thank god he didn’t win.

If he had then who knows where or how he would have ended up but thankfully it didn’t come to that and the then 16 year old learnt the error of his ways and took off in his own direction and what a direction it has become.

If you haven’t encountered him before, then please, before listening to Corby forget about any prejudices you might have about ‘singer/songwriters’ as in this case you’re not dealing with the Jason Mraz’s and Ed Sheeran’s of this world but you are faced with a totally new dimension of this old genre.

Where Mraz and Sheeran (both of whom are artists I have seen perform live in the past) veer towards ‘crooning’ territory and sing tales about “geeks in the pink” and “lov[ing] Shrek”, Corby strikes a far darker and more menacing tone with a far more haunting and at times devastating lyrical content.

Such comments aren’t intended to belittle the likes of Sheeran who has found his own niche and his own form of diversity in teaming up with grime artists, using loop pedals and in singing songs that sound sweet in spite of their subject matters which include rape, prostitution and miscarriage, or indeed Mraz who has his own take on the genre with his at times very slick and very witty approach to songwriting.

This comment is instead designed to sub-categorize this all too wide-spanning a genre and to elevate Corby’s daring and soaring sound to it’s own very deserving perch, a perch which I believe is deserving of greater critical appreciation and recognition than the work of artists like Ed Sheeran and Jason Mraz who may well be hugely successful and may well be talented but for me can’t match up to the emphatic performances and song-writing depth of Corby.

The angst and the ferocity of Corby’s vocals set him apart from an awful lot of the music industry’s success stories within this at times rather antiquated genre and was at first-hand like nothing I have ever really known or witnessed emanating from the lungs of a ‘singer/songwriter’ before.

Sure, I had been an admirer of Matt Corby’s for quite a while having first been drawn to his sound when I first heard a live version of his most successful song to date ‘Brother’ and I had sensed the vocal range and power that he possesses, but there is nothing quite like having it performed live and within five metres of you.

After this first-hand experience and some considerable reflection I would place him somewhere between Caleb Followill (of Kings of Leon fame) and Jeff Buckley on the vocal spectrum, in that he combines Followill’s strength and grittiness with the Buckley’s delicacy, darkness, tone and control. I am far from an expert when it comes to singing and vocal control (as anyone who has heard me in full-flow will testify) but I advise you to imagine the combined vocal strengths and qualities of these two aforementioned artists and to throw in a hefty amount of soulful inspiration if you wish to gain an idea of what Matt Corby is all about.

Corby’s set at the Arts Club last consisted of  just 5 songs which were (in order); Soul’s A Fire, Made Of Stone, Runaway, Brother and Big Eyes. The set-list from his performance last night is listed below with accompanying videos from previous live performances….

1. Soul’s A Fire:

2. Made Of Stone:

3. Run Away: (The actual performance from last night’s performance in Notting Hill)

4. Brother:

5. Big Eyes:

The journey of this set started, as stated above, with a rendition of ‘Soul’s A Fire’ which is a heavily blues influenced rock track which showed off both the delicacies of Corby’s vocal range with his ability to channel the spirit of guitar-soul icons such as Jimi Hendrix. This track features on Matt’s ‘Into The Flame’ E.P and it made for an emphatic start to his set.

The second track which he performed last night was the haunting ‘Made Of Stone’ which he performs with staggering vocal control amidst the gymnastic ability required by his tonsils throughout in order to hit the extraordinary notes which he takes on whilst performing the melodic backing track on piano.

Then, sandwiched between his more familiar tracks, was a new song of Matt’s titled ‘Run Away’ which is an epic tail of heartbreak and the breakdown of a relationship consumed by selfishness and volatility. They may not on paper sound like inspired lyrics but the repetitive burst of “She doesn’t give a shit about you” strikes an agonising chord as Corby’s vocals soar into their grittiest and most heart-wrenching state.

There was no let-off either as Corby followed this tale of woe with the previously mentioned ‘Brother’ which is another heart-wrenching tale of love and mistreatment laced heavily with regret. This is arguably the song which is most indicative of any defined genre in which one could place Corby as it combines beautifully his delicate menace and his thumping and scratching roars of emotion.

To follow such agony came the sweet ‘Big Eyes’ to close the set as Corby lulled the audience into a comfortable stupor and this closing performance was an apt demonstration of Matt’s diverse songwriting abilities and of the emotions which he is capable of evoking.

I realise that this ‘review’ of sorts sounds rather more like a love letter to Matt Corby than a fair and balanced analysis but I honestly couldn’t possibly pick fault with what I saw. The performance was stunning from start to finish and I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing a full-length performance from him some time in the near future.

I implore anyone who reads this to give him a good lengthy listen and to buy tickets for his forthcoming UK tour which there is meant to be an announcement about through his website tomorrow….

I should also quickly mention Alexander Wolfe who was the other Communion signed artist I saw perform at the Arts Club last night whose performance might not have been as epic as Corby’s but was soulful and unique in it’s own right. Check him out too…