Last week, Matt Morris played his first show at the Bluebird in more than a year. Let's just say it was quite a bit different from the first time he played there with his full band. Not only did he look dramatically different, clean shaven with his rainbow sherbert colored hair, but the set up was notably stripped down, with just Morris center stage, a drummer and a guitarist.
If you read our interview with Morris last week, you know this was quite purposeful on his part: He made a concerted effort to write more upbeat music that he could tour more easily with fewer members of his ensemble. As he demonstrated at the Bluebird on Friday night, he succeeded.
Morris is at a stage in his career where he's constantly evolving. Hell, his music sounds dramatically different from the stuff he played us at Macy Studios just after the first of the year. Although we suspect that it hasn't changed as much as it's progressed, with Morris figuring out a way to present it live that's both accessible and feels natural.
We wondered how he'd pull that off, particularly since the recorded versions of the songs we heard were very electronic-based despite the organic instrumentation, especially the vocals, which were treated to the point where they almost sounded like another instrument. At the Bluebird Friday night, as you'll see below, he's turned the songs into something that is completely rhythmic, which we should have figured, given his recent proclivity for playing bass.
Truthfully, when he first stepped onto the stage and offered up a soulful, a cappella rendition of "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper and then picked up a hand drum and sang another song sans any other instrumentation, none of us knew quite what to expect. But as he worked his way through his set and turned in completely revamped versions of his older songs -- which, although well received, were nearly unrecognizable -- he primed the crowd for the new material that he and his mates performed with aplomb.
During our recent conversation with Morris, he pointed out how some folks had drawn comparisons to the Police -- which, to be honest, seemed rather lofty at the time; we assumed this had everything to do with his higher register and the fact that he was now primarily playing bass.
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Turns out, though, the correlation is surprisingly apt. Besides the fact that from where we were standing -- if you squinted a bit -- Morris sort of favored Sting in his tank top, Morris's commanding bass lines definitely added a Police-like groove to the proceedings.
If Matt Morris set out to distinguish himself from the herd of earnest singer-songwriters, he's done a completely admirable job. On his Twitter page, Morris makes it clear that's he's a shapeshifter who's really not looking to be defined; he describes himself as a "Writer of lyrics, singer of melodies, player of notes, possessor of radical hair." That sounds about right.