The packed house was teeming with anticipation for Phosphorescent (aka Matthew Houck) last Thursday night at the Hawthorne Theater. Touring for the new album “Muchacho”, he did not disappoint, and seemed in good spirits while delivering the new set of songs that were produced in isolation in Mexico. While emoting on Tell me Baby, the regret in his voice was palpable: “Did I go to far?/I know I spent most of my life in these bars”, he displayed how anguish can be reversed into such luminous music.
The same sentiment was continued with the single “Song for Zula”, but the finely polished sound produced on the album did not quite translate live, as it was stripped of the lush synths and dreamlike atmosphere. Hauck bounced right back with the energetic grooves of “Ride On/Right On”. The crowd danced and sang along as the percussionists shaked and beat their drums with precision. This was the highlight of the night.
For the second set, the band left and Matthew emerged alone and took a seat at the piano. He took a few moments to engage the audience as he cleaned the fog off his black framed glasses. “Let me get a good look at you” he said, as if he had been so engrossed in the music in the first set. This was both awkward and endearing. He followed with the redemptive Muchacho’s Tune, where he sang “I’ve been fucked up, and I’ve been a fool…I fixed myself up, to come be with you”. This sums the haggard but beautifully human quality of Phosphorescent.
Words by Scott McHale