Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
“I love that about touring; I love that kind of spirit. All of [the songs] change. I mean, we’re seven or eight shows in. They are completely different now than they were three shows ago. It’s sort of an adventure.” – Matt Hales (Aqualung)
What could be better than spending a little time hearing an artist’s inner workings brought to life before your eyes?
Matt Hales, better known as Aqualung, burst out of “retirement” with a new album Magnetic North, a new tour and new life. I suppose I should use the term “retirement” loosely. Hales was more “burnt out” from the rigorous tour. Away from his new family for extended periods of time, even missing his son’s first steps Aqualung decided something must change. Little did he know the music in his heart would come full circle.
Magnetic North is highly recommended, despite mixed reviews. Matt Hales does a little more than his standard fare this time around. The song about his new daughter, “Hummingbird,” stands out in particular by being driven by expressive passion only a father could know. Hales’ strong suit is definitely in his composing and while Simon Cowell might comment on his vocals, it certainly comes to life in its execution.
After accompanying Krista Polvere near the end of her set, Hales’ took his seat behind the piano and simply started playing. No introductions were needed at the sold out show, as young and old watched as their songs were freshly reintroduced. One after another, each song displayed Hales’ impassioned prowess behind the keys. One of his new songs (“Reel Me In”) is peculiar. The song itself is a bit dark in context, a shipwreck dream starting from death and ending with leaving loved ones behind. Yet it ends on a quietly refreshing tone.
Of course, Aqualung took time to play the audience’s favorites like the always popular “Strange and Beautiful” and several others from his previous popular albums. Yet Hales also took some time to play a few of his favorite songs like “7 Keys” which blended perfectly into “Breaking My Heart Again,” both taken from his second EP, Still Life. Even some of his more familiar songs took his fans by surprise as his songs were never presented in such an unfamiliar, almost “unplugged” way. Hales’ opted for a natural approach without relying on heavy drums or electronics to sway the sound towards something mechanical.
Aqualung almost did not even need a microphone, the crowd was close and quiet enough once the singer sat at the keys. The sound was well balanced between Hales and the skilled young performers traveling with Aqualung. There was no time where Hales’ driving piano chords overpowered the driving bass. Krista Polvere’s gentle vocals also fit harmoniously with Hales’ new take on “Sundown”, a track from his latest record (Magnetic North).
Magnetic North is available now via iTunes. Make sure to grab the starting track, “New Friend”, below!
You could know:
Strange & Beautiful
“Strange and Beautiful (I’ll Put A Spell On You)” from Strange and Beautiful, previously released on first EP, Aqualung
You should know:
“New Friend” from latest record, Magnetic North