July 5, 2016
In a generous two-set performance that lasted til the midnight hour at Nectar's in Burlington, Matt Schofield made a case for himself as one of the finest bluesmen of his generation. Gary Clark, Jr.
and Derek Trucks
may be more versatile, but the simplicity and passion Schofield brings to his music reminds of no one so much as the archetypal guitar hero himself, Eric Clapton
The intensity with which the British guitarist plays recalls Stevie Ray Vaughan
, but Schofield is a deceptively gifted talent. It's impossible not to be struck with the sting of the notes he plays on a tune such as "Shipwrecked," but by the same token, it doesn't take long for the tuneful melody in his guitar lines to manifest itself. Unlike his aforementioned late Texas forebear, Matt Schofield exhibits not one iota of flamboyance, but that only allows the impact of his musicianship to strike more directly.
The support of his band furthers the process too, in part because they so enjoy each other's playing as well as the leader's (the infectious nature of which dynamic moved both the standing and seated that night). To avoid any distraction during their individual spotlights, Schofield made a point of leaving the stage near the end of both sets to allow bassist Rodrigo Zambrano, keyboardist Jason Matthews and drummer Aaron Glueckauf to essentially reaffirm what any attendee in this famous venue had learned by that time, that is, Matt Schofield's accompanists are savvy and sympathetic musicians whose virtues belie their age.
The same might be said of Schofield himself precisely because he's so thoroughly processed his blues roots. He can display his command of the fundamentals deliberately, as on his choice of an Albert Collins
cover, "Travellin' South," for an encore, or perfectly naturally, as in the enhanced tremolo effect he applies to "Dreaming of You," homage to Jimi Hendrix
that's a perfect summation of his understated approach to his music. It does nothing to disparage the British Blues Hall of Famer to make such references either; in fact, it's a logical extension of the genre's legacy and traditions.
On the small stage in the former home of Phish, as on his studio recordings, Schofield stuck to mostly original material like "Hindsight," but had devised a pair of well constructed sets to offer an audience that unfortunately dwindled markedly from first to second (he even remarked upon same, facetiously suggesting it was the loss of those departed as they were going to miss all the hits!).
Shuffles fast and hard intermingled with slow twelve-bar excursions into deep emotion, while well-constructed numbers combining rock and blues elements including greater or lesser (but never aimless) improvisation contrasted the inclusion of a New Orleans-derived second-line rhythm workout. The latter supplying continuity to the set by its connection with the funk-workout rhythm guitar Schofield offered in support to his sidemen late this beautiful summer evening.
Taken as a whole, this performance could constitute a live album Matt Schofield and company would be proud to offer at their merch table wherever they play, not just the next time they return to the Green Mountains.