Live Review: Matt Romagna at Sidewalk Cafe

Mark Shiwolich Matt Romagna SMALL

Material: Matt Romagna’s user-friendly music falls in the middle of acoustic, Americana and country “light.” Thematically, subjects favor Nashville themes of love found and relationship hopes dashed over troubadour-type story songs. There are infectious rhythms and singable hooks that keep toes tapping and drinks coming, and the set stays on an upbeat note with a thread of optimism throughout.

Even when life takes a less desirable
turn, Romagna’s material has an uplifting message and vibe. “We Will Be Alright,” the most hooky song, is a feel-good ode to facing adversity no matter what the outcome. “When My Ship Comes Sailing In” is an exercise in self-determination, sticking with “the dream” whatever it takes. The song has a pleasing melody and shuffle feel but is lyrically too direct in the chorus. It could stand a bit more subtlety through more metaphor or imagery.

Musicianship: The artist is a graduate of
the Berklee School of Music, which delivers highly skilled musicians (no exception here). His vocals work well with the arrangements, and his fellow band members, who Romagna presented as “my friends,” fostered a nice connection between the band and the audience. They were good support for Romagana and sounded tight and well-rehearsed.

Performance: When the sound engineer introduced him, pronouncing his name incorrectly, Romagna chimed in with humor, “It’s Romagna like Lasagna,” which set an immediate tone that musically followed suit. Though his forte seemed to be more in the mid- and uptempo arena, the occasional ballad would have added more dimension.

He wove in two big covers: the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and the Everly Brothers’ “Bye, Bye Love,” performed very close to the original renditions but respectable versions that dovetailed perfectly with his own originals.

Summary: Matt Romagna performs a cohesive, well-rehearsed show with a solid group of musicians. He delivers his message devoid of pretention and projects a sincerity that some artists achieve simply with smoke and mirrors. Expanding the emotional landscape by adding more diverse subject matter and nuance would serve him well as he further navigates his musical career. Romagna can be heard promoting his new EP, We Will Be Alright, on the trendy Lower East Side Club scene and in Brooklyn’s newly transplanted The Living Room.

The Players: Matt Romagna, guitar, vocals; Brian Renda, guitar, vocals, Ryan Whittemore, drums; Jerry Fiess, bass.

Venue: Sidewalk Cafe
City: New York, NY