Matthew Sweet at the Coach House

Last night I saw Matthew Sweet play at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. He’s on a mini-tour to promote his new album (out since a few days ago), which I picked up but haven’t listened to yet. The show was OK — heavily weighted towards the new album, which I am cautiously optimistic about. The venue, which I’d never been to, is pretty nice but kinda weird — looks like it used to be a large sit-down restaurant in a strip mall.

It sounded like he was winded or short of breath at times, which was not good — what’s worse is that he actually said something along the lines of, "Well, I’m not as tired now as I was at the show a couple of days ago!" While it may be overly dramatic to say that time has not been kind to his body, he has clearly put on some weight (and he was a pretty big guy when I first saw him live 13 years ago), and I have to wonder if that is affecting his performing ability. I should also note that his sartorial choice of a mesh-back hat did not add to my estimation of his health.

There’s also an interesting interview in Performing Songwriter with him, talking a bit about his career, The Thorns, his cover record, his fear of flying, and his new hobby of pottery. (For the record, there was no pottery for sale at this show, so I can’t pass judgment on it.) It’s sort of interesting that he acknowledges the changes that have taken place in the music sales landscape in the last few years, and how they will probably allow him (an artist who’s moderately well known) to succeed modestly on his own terms. At the same time, though, he mentions that one of the reasons he signed with his new label is that they do artist development — this seems strange to me, because after 20-something years of producing music, you’d think that you would already have your market and fanbase pretty well defined. An anecdote in support of this idea: I was probably one of five or six people at the show who were under the age of 30 — there probably aren’t too many new Matthew Sweet fans out there, even if he did have a track in Guitar Hero II

Also, his long-time drummer Ric Menck looks like he stepped off the set of The Planet of the Apes — with sunglasses and a hat on, he really looked like an ape. Pretty crazy.

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