Material: An impassioned communicator, rocker Matt Mays delivered an unapologetic and sincere set as he returned to New York City in support of his new release Once Upon A Hell Of A Time. A past Juno Award winner for best rock album in his native Canada, Mays tackles a myriad of emotions and relationships that portray someone who has thrown himself into the ring of life with abandon, often paying the price; but giving him a wealth of experiences to draw on.
Evident in “Faint Of Heart,” Mays depicts a relationship that is fraught with complexity, declaring that he is up to the task of this life lesson: Bring on your heartache/my love/never let us be apart/bring on the heartache/it’s not for the faint of heart. In “Trust Life,” Mays assures us that there is always a safety net beneath us and not to avoid conflict if growth is the result; keep faith that in the end, all will work out: What you think you got you still need to get/the one that got away that you haven’t met yet/Hang on to anything keeping you alive/…You gotta trust life.
Musicianship: Mays’ group includes three guitars, which beefs up the overall intensity of the sound, moving it more from alternative rock to a harder rock sound. Mays' vocals are powerful, even over the guitar-laden backdrop, though at times it is hard to make out the lyrics. Instead his believability relies on his performance, which is wholly convincing. The band is a great support for Mays with some added flair from keyboardist Fleming-Smith.
Performance: Matt Mays is a throwback to a time when rock & roll was about the music and the stories they imparted—a story in which you could find common ground even if you didn’t live that exact scenario. And Mays does come across as a more down-to-earth artist, someone you can relate to. As bold as he is when in performance mode, he is equally humble and laidback when addressing the audience. Although the set hung together well as a whole, it lacked one song that screamed out as a hit, though “NYC Girls” came the closest of the repertoire.
Summary: As Mays continues to push outside his Canadian borders there will be an audience for his music, an enthusiastic group who value unadorned rock music with its messages delivered directly and devoid of pretense. Aiming for more standout material, combined with his relatable subject matter, will further expand Mays’ fan base.
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Players: Matt Mays, vocals, guitar; Adam Baldwin, guitars, vocals; Damien Moynihan, drums; Leith Fleming-Smith, keyboards, vocals; Ryan Stanley, guitars, Serge Samson, bass