Before twee overload could begin on Sunday night, all the adorkably dressed She and Him fans meandered into the majestic Hollywood Bowl setting amid the soft glow of Matthew E. White tunes. White might appear to be an intimidating figure, what with sharing a barber with ZZ Top and all, but underneath that mountain man exterior lay the most gracious of performers. As he waxed poetically about his Richmond, Virginia home, White genuinely and soft-spokenly expressed that he was “privileged to be playing this show.”
If he had jitters about playing one of Los Angeles’ most storied venues, as soon as he strummed his guitar they all but melted away. White and his gang of six musicians rambled about the stage and played unhinged as though they were back home in one of their Virginia backyards jamming at a barbecue. They even used an array of found-instruments with White’s bongo player adding the curt wraps of the playing of Coke bottles to the ensemble.
While White did stretch out his jazz tendencies as his song’s bridges wandered into a labyrinthian-like confluence of soul, there was one notable shift in the music. On his record Big Inner, with its assortment of horns and more traditional jazz influences, White’s music takes on distinct bebop leanings. On Sunday, however, White regretfully noted that he was able to bring along just six of the 30 musicians that contributed to his record, and thus his sound nodded more toward the siren sounds of his alt-country-fied Virginia hometown than those of his time spent as leader of the avant-garde jazz big band Fight the Big Bull.
White closed with his magnum opus “Brazos,” which comes up just shy of ten minuntes. As he serenaded Hollywood Bowl-goers with his last song, he delicately cajoled his words into the mic. “Take it easy, baby,” he bid the audience before bracing for a formative and rollicking finish. White picked his guitar to the edge of sanity while his pianist followed suit on the keys, wrapping up the musical journey with a wild display of emotion.
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