Mat McHugh’s WA fans had been hanging since June 9 when his Mojo’s show was postponed due to a bout of food poisoning in Adelaide (something about a gnarly allergy to shellfish and some errant shrimp paste). However, on Tuesday the small bar was packed out with punters frothing for his final Love Come Save Me national tour show – promoting his free online album by the same title that was put out by word of mouth, social media and his website in April.
McHugh kicked things off with ‘My Mind is an Echo Chamber’ from The Beautiful Girls 2010 album Spooks, followed by ‘No One Left to Blame’ off Love Come Save Me. He shared a story about being a little kid in bed listening to his dad serenade his mum with the acoustic guitar, and spoke with feeling about the strong connection between hearing a song and being instantly transported back to a certain time or place. This was the perfect introduction for ‘On a Clear Day’ (from The Beautiful Girls 2002 EP, Morning Sun), which had a tender rendition of Eric Clapton’s 1977 romantic ‘Wonderful Tonight’ weaved into it. Suffice to say, the predominantly female crowd was swooning over his crooning – and we were only three tracks in. Sheesh.
He announced ‘I’m going to play some samples now and get some groove happening, are you guys for or against drum machines? I love them, but I can tell you there is a healthy anti-drum machine lobby – whenever I post anything about drum machines I get hate mail from drummers saying, ‘Fuck you, Mat, just fuck you’’ which drew laughter from the audience. ‘Pocket Full of Shells’ had a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ adding a touch of 60s folk flavour to it. New tracks from Love Come Save Me, upbeat ‘Go Don’t Stop’ and the title track were performed next. McHugh bared a bit of his soul to the audience when introducing the latter, speaking of his friends passing from cancer at a young age: “this is a tribute to Andy Irons”. After some kerfuffle about a misplaced set-list, McHugh asked the crowd for requests. Several voices yelled out ‘Strange Days’, so he obliged, then told the audience that “the best thing about music is playing a song and everyone singing alone, then it’s like we’re all in a room together and not so much me on stage like ‘look at me’…I hate that shit”, prompting a sing-a-long to a funked up version of ‘Periscopes’. ‘Under The Landslide’ from this first album he put out under his own name, 2011’s Seperatista, got some Bob Marley legendary ‘Waiting in Vain’ as well as U2’s ballad, ‘One’.
‘Let’s Take the Long Way Home’ took us back to 2005’s album, We’re Already Gone, then even further back to 2003 when ‘Music’ was all over the airwaves – a breakout single for The Beautiful Girls. McHugh got the audience to sing the chorus over and over while he did some ‘80s white boy hip hop’, rapping the fast-paced verse over the top. He told a delighted crowd that they were the most ‘rhythmic’ group so far – ‘you guys are keeping time like crazy – let’s all start a band!’ (insert wild and wishful applause here.) A menacing ‘Blackbird’ featured the line ‘tell me what’s a world with no soul?’ as well as a superb cover of The Police’s woeful 1978 hit ‘Roxanne’. With a distinctly more reggae flavour thanks to lots of reverb and some funky percussion, I have a sneaky suspicion that his next record will feature a heavier dub influence – he clearly loves it. After explaining the retirement of The Beautiful Girls moniker and their forthcoming final tour, he struck the opening chords of crowd favourite ‘La Mar’, with Pearl Jam’s ‘Black’ final verse ‘I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life/I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky/but why, why, why can’t it be mine?’ giving us a tiny insight into the loss and longing McHugh has known. A subdued yet soulful ‘Freedom’ was closely followed by the only Ziggurats track of the set, ‘Dela’, (originally by South African political activist Johnny Clegg) – the perfect way to end an evening of enchanting entertainment.
You can download Mat’s free digital album Love Come Save Me at www.lovecomesaveme.com and catch The Beautiful Girls final WA shows on Friday August 17 or Saturday August 18 at The Fly by Night in Fremantle.
By Lisa Morrison.