Tuesday was a warm, golden evening in Oxford. And with the light gleaming through the arched windows at the SJE, Scott Matthews delivered a performance as beautiful and honey-coated as the world outside. Matthews is surprised that he has made it to his 6th album, but anyone who knows his work certainly wouldn’t be. An exceptional, delicate guitar player, Matthews writes honest songs that hit effortlessly at your sincerest emotions.
On Tuesday he gave us a taste from across his career. Once on stage, he told us that his life has seen a lot of change lately, most significantly with the arrival, 10 weeks ago, of his son, Elliott Scott Matthews. He opened, somewhat appropriately therefore, with the title track from his most recent album, The Great Untold. He went on to give grounded and genuinely funny snippets of backstory and anecdote between each song. Some were origin stories, 'some songs are just right for certain guitars,' he said before playing ‘Wallflower.’ Holding up his classical guitar, he continued, 'This is Mel, from Australia – she doesn’t like the weather here, see this crack? But when I played this song on this guitar, a song that I’d been trying to get right since 2009, something just clicked.'
Other tales told the journey his songs have been on since their release. The heart-fluttering ‘Eyes Wider than Before’ from his 2006 album, Passing Stranger, was a great example. Asking who was a fan of Ugly Betty, he described the episode climax that his song brought to a romantic denouement in season 2.
Keeping things a little closer to home, Matthews’ support came from London-based Ady Johnson. Another singer-songwriter starting out with his first album release. His songs were a mixture of bluesy thumpers and folksy pop. His set certainly raised warm smiles and his best songs, the upbeat ‘New Year’s Day’ and ‘Whale Song’, got everyone clapping and tapping along.
Returning to Matthews, he saved the best for last. Having already played for well over an hour, he came back for an encore of perhaps two of his best-loved songs: ‘Passing Stranger’ and the Ivor Novello Award-winning ‘Elusive’. They were enrapturing, heart breaking and examples of incredible song writing, pure and simple.
The contrast between Matthews’ personable patter and soaring song delivery, blending in the unique setting of the SJE, produced what was a truly enchanting evening.