I confess I wasn’t familiar with Matt Tomlinson before learning about this show, but I was intrigued after hearing some of his music on his Bandcamp page, which made me curious to hear it live. I’m glad I did; this show was like hot cocoa for the ears on a winter day here in Montréal (minus the usual ear-ringing after the show, which was a nice plus!).
The venue was new to me as well, and oh so tiny! Salle Claude Léveillée only has 128 seats, making for a very intimate experience- so intimate that upon asking about any photo restrictions, I was told to avoid shooting during quiet bits. When I could hear a pin drop just before the show started, I understood why! I can’t even begin to list the acts I’d love to see play here!
The place was pretty full by the time the show started, with lots of couples; I even saw a kiddo in the audience. The vibe was super laid back and relaxed…I felt like I could leave my purse on my seat and not have it stolen. (This was later confirmed as legit when I stayed out of my seat to not annoy folks by getting in and out of my seat for photos, haha!)
Before he played, a proper introduction was made by a staff member of the venue, which I found quite endearing for some reason. Then, at the 8:15P.M. mark, the room went pitch black with only ocean waves to be heard…it was quite surreal. Very dim red lights came on as Matt Tomlinson got on stage accompanied by his band. They began with a calm start followed by a subtle pick-up that made for some catchy folk.
Once the first track was done, Matt, originally from Ontario, introduced himself and began what would be a continuing story between songs about his move to Montréal and other tidbits. He spoke in French for the most part, with his English accent easily forgiven because his words were very well-spoken, and he got a few laughs with some his stories. I found the stories between songs absolutely charming, and he resonated a warm vibe you couldn’t help absorbing. He seems like the kind of guy that would help you shovel out your car in the middle of a blizzard.
At one point he spoke some words about David Bowie (which I’m guessing will be quite a common occurrence during shows from now on, and understandably so) before playing “Rien ne Dur” in dedication to him. It was during this song that I really began to take in his voice, which is simple and smooth on the ears.
Once he finished, he threw on a red feather boa and joked it was for a “rock star effect.” I didn’t catch the name of the song played, but some lyrics got good laughs out of the audience. For this song he played with an electric blues guitar; it was a treat listening to him switch up instruments between that, an acoustic guitar, and a ukulele, depending on the song.
I really loved “Aussi Loin que la Lune” for the guitar strumming, both at the start and throughout. (And yeah, I love almost anything involved with the word moon, minus seeing butts à la “mooning,” haha). Some other highlights included when he spoke about being in a crap situation and living out in some woods with a raven for his best friend, and when he introduced his band with each member doing their own little thing for a bit. It was classic, and I adored that.
After this song, the band exited the stage and left Matt giving out kisses to the audience. Once he disappeared backstage, the crowd replied with clapping and cheers for an encore. Of course, he obliged, coming out with his acoustic guitar for the solo song “Prendre le Temps” where he joked, “Sometimes you have to take the time to tune your guitar,” and talked a bit more about his experiences. He made a reference to the Quebec town St. Donat which filled me with glee; I try to get up there any chance I get when friends invite me up to their chalet, so hearing that town name made all fuzzy inside. Then before playing, he bit his fingernail saying, “Voilà! Prendre le temps to get a broken nail off!” which got a good laugh out of me.
As a whole, it was a great wholesome folk night; I’d say Mr.Tomlinson is something of an Ontarian Jean Leloup in terms of his vibe. The band was tight, and kudos to the female back-up singer that added wonderful touches throughout the night. If you can catch him live, I highly recommend you check him out. It’s sure to be a warm, charming folk experience!
Written and Photographed by Angie Radczenko
*edited by Kate Erickson