by Marianne Meyer
On June 21st, Matt Nathanson will release his new album, “Modern Love,” on Vanguard Records. Since mid-April, he’s been on a nationwide tour with multi-platinum country duo Sugarland, which wraps up on May 27 in San Antonio, TX (Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush also make an appearance on the “Modern Love” track “Run.”) And, starting in August, Nathanson will be opening for Maroon 5 and Train on the second leg of their co-headlining North American tour, kicking off August 28th in Louisville, KY.
Such performances are a mixed blessing for Nathanson’s devoted fans. A hard-touring road warrior whose headlining shows generally include hilarious ramblings and raucous sing-alongs to cheesy pop hits (“Livin’ on a Prayer” is a recurring crowd-pleaser), Nathanson as an opener on a multi-act bill doesn’t always have the chance to engage the crowd in his usual manner. Still, since his 2007 album “Some Mad Hope” exposed the San Francisco-based singer/songwriter to a larger marketplace, spawned a hit single (“Come On Get Higher,” over 2 million copies sold) and put him onto the national TV radar, it’s only right for the talented guy to expand his audience.
Luckily, Nathanson has found a way to enjoy the best of both worlds. Throughout this Sugarland-supporting tour, he has been performing secret shows on his off nights, inviting fans through his Twitter account and email list to join him for solo shows at intimate venues. On Monday night, Nathanson delighted a crowd of about 150 lucky fans in a sold-out show at Jammin’ Java in the northern Virginia DC surburbs after having played Merriweather Post Pavilion the prior night with Sugarland and Little Big Town.
There was no opening act, and Nathanson had just one player with him, guitarist Aaron Tap, who added tasteful string filigree to many songs and provided a frequent foil to some of the host’s teasing comments.
Acknowledging the special nature of the event, Nathanson dipped into his deep catalog (“Lucky Boy” and “Little Victories” were especially welcome), tried to honor requests (though the din of shouted titles made it difficult), hit the hit (“Come On Get Higher”) and previewed the new album (“Mercy (Less Drowning, More Land)” was one standout) in the course of a nearly two-hour show.
Though gregarious and delightful as ever onstage, Nathanson was unable to hang out after the show for meeting, greeting and hanging out with the crowd, a common event at his smaller shows. Confessing a certain cranky fatigue (“You don’t want me tonight,” he teased the crowd) on the eve of a trip to Canada that would allow four hours’ sleep, Nathanson offered his regrets with a certain resignation. It may be the one bummer about seeing this well-deserving musician reach the commercial tipping point – the more popular he gets, the more precious these small, secret shows become.
Matt Nathanson’s upcoming tour with Maroon 5 and Train:
August 28 Louisville, KY @ Freedom Hall/State Fair
August 30 West Palm Beach, FL @ Cruzan Amphitheater
August 31 Tampa, FL @ 1-800-Ask Gary Amphitheater
Sept. 1 Alpharetta, GA @ Verizon Wireess Amphitheatre
Sept. 4 Kansas City, MO @ Starlight Theater
Sept. 7 Winnipeg, MB @ MTS Centre
Sept. 9 Saskatoon, SK @ Credit Union Centre
Sept. 10 Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
Sept. 12 Abbotsford, BC @ Abbotsford Centre
Sept. 15 Concord, CA @ Sleep Train Pavilion at Concord
Sept. 16 Las Vegas, NV @ The Pearl at The Palms
Sept. 22 Oklahoma City, OK @ Zoo Amphitheater
Sept. 23 Dallas, TX @ Gexa Energy Pavilion
Sept. 24 The Woodlands, TX @ Woods Mitchell Pavilion
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Matt Nathanson fans, did you get into a secret show? Tell us about it in the comments section, below.