Sep 4, 2011

Matthew Santos, Ben Joseph and the Mathematics, and Jennifer Hall at Schubas on 9/3/11

I was invited by Jennifer Hall to her CD release party on 9/3/11. My friend's husband was mocking me for leaving what was a perfectly good beach day to drive in from Michigan, risking life and limb, navigating thunderstorms, to attend this show. It was well worth the effort. Good thing we were early at 8:30 or I would have missed the unexpected good fortune of hearing the opening act, Matthew Santos. He is self-described as a folk-rock-soul singer. Unknown to me before this night, he is clearly an up and coming star having already recorded the hit "Superstar" with Lupe Fiasco and having the likes of Phil Collins supply him with drum tracks for his release. Here is an interview and live performance from 2008:

I approached him after the show with my blog cards and complimented his scatting prowess. Now I know why he looked at me like "whatevs lady ". So I did not know his background, that he has been singing since age 6 (and is now 28), or that he has famous musicians like Lupe Fiasco performing and recording the hit "Superstar" with him and giving him props.

Here is the song "Superstar" for your listening pleasure:

 Lupe Fiasco - Superstar .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Embedded here is another video from a show in Iowa that features the both Matthew Santos and his beautiful girlfriend/violinist/back-up vocalist, Chihsuan Yang:

with other guests.

Video of Matthew and Chihsuan performing "Summertime" and "Shadows in a Shoebox" at Schubas on 9/3/11:

Needless to say, I was caught completely off guard and blown away. I was not expecting such a great opening act. We will for sure be able to say that we met him at this small bar in Lakeview before he was huge. I will also be able to offer self-mockery about handing him my blog card. You never know, he may actually read this and think "well at least the music blog lady has good taste". Due to the music stand awkwardly blocking a direct view of Matthew on stage (what up with that?), his performance gets a 4.5 out of 5 guitar rating!

Jennifer Hall performing "Young Things": (see previous post on Jennifer Hall CD Review) -

Jean Harlow

Jennifer Hall at Schubas

Jennifer Hall's vocals did not disappoint. Her vocals were perfect and revealed no sign of first CD release party jitters. Live, she not only can deliver a ballad with finesse but can rock out hard. For some reason just listening to her release did not make this obvious to me. Her look was Jean Harlow, high red platform heals, black skirt and top, and her platinum blonde locks coiffed for the occasion. Jennifer has the talent and looks to succeed in the singer songwriter arena. My main constructive criticism of the performance was in the showmanship. As is true with many vocalists who are not playing an instrument, it is a necessary skill to figure out what to do with your hands and body during a show. Maybe adding a little microphone bling as a prop would be useful. Jennifer also cussed a bit too much and unnecessarily, to fill empty air time. This brings down the class and undermines professionalism. An alternative suggestion would be stories or intros. I personally respond well to stories that introduce and give background to a song. These intros can be precisely mapped out and the delivery can be fine tuned with humor. Jennifer mentioned before one song that it was "about a guy" and that was it. Lastly, it is crucial to introduce your band mates correctly. Although she acknowledged her faux pas, one must be prepared for this basic ritual. It may be that in time these refinements would work themselves out. I am always left wondering in these situations why a performer is not coached or sensitively advised by a peer or mentor, about showmanship. I can't be the only one who notices "areas in need of improvement" right? Having said this, I did greatly enjoy the show as did my friends. We are looking forward to seeing how future shows improve and whether these blemishes are ironed out. Jennifer is opening for the Redwalls at Lincoln Hall next. I look forward to reading the review.

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