Chemistry. It’s the one word that continually came to me when watching Striking Matches duo Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis perform at Glasgow’s Òran Mór. The show was without doubt one of the most enjoyable and memorable gigs I’ve had the pleasure of in recent memory.
The show started with two album tracks featuring Sarah on mandolin; ‘Miss Me More’ and ‘Hanging On A Lie’. The former isn’t a favourite but it gives Sarah a chance to show off her mandolin skills with a nice little solo made up of great rhythm playing then a clever little run that works perfectly.
Striking Matches often play as a two-piece acoustic team but do switch to their electric guitars on occasion (Fender for Justin and mostly Gibson for Sarah whilst both on Takmine acoustics). I love the way they play off each other; once Sarah picked up her electric guitar she joined Justin in some Thin Lizzy-inspired twin guitar playing.
It wasn’t long before Justin got his turn to show off when BBC Single Of The Week ‘Missing You Tonight’ started. His technique is pretty unusual with mostly not a plectrum in sight so how he can be so precise when playing an almost flamenco style I’ll never know.
There were some rhythm section sound issues mid-set, so instead of stalling they decided to acoustic things up which worked well for ‘Trouble is as Trouble Does’. Sarah also had a sound issue which gave Justin time to play around with the riff which he decided to play at four times the speed of normal (which is pretty fast already) leading to a rather excited crowd dancing along.
Non-album track ‘When It’s Raining’ was the most impressive guitar playing display of the evening. These are all beautifully crafted songs and the vocal abilities are just as impressive as the guitar playing, but this song is long and designed to allow a well-deserved moment of indulgent guitar solos. The middle sounds completely improvised and only when they return to twin guitar then somehow seamlessly drift back into the chorus do you realise every note has been thought out and played to perfection. There was a Cheshire cat looking at me jealously because of the grin on my face.
(Support act) John and Jacob – armed with trumpet, harmonica, and hand claps – re-joined the stage to do a great cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Never Going Back Again’. Four excellent singers, great harmonies – injected with a bit of humour from Jacob’s single note on the harmonica – kept the good vibes going. It’s worth taking a minute on John and Jacob; they’ve had a number one in the American Country Charts writing for The Band Perry, and their single ‘Be My Girl’, used in ABCs Nashville. Tonight it was two guys with two guitars, a harmonica, a trumpet and some very ‘Beatley’ sounding songs playing to an absolutely packed room; they deservedly have a loyal following.
Next a little story about Striking Matches penciling a number of songs for Nashville led to the beautiful and almost tear-jerking ‘When the Right One Comes Along’. Just Justin on guitar this time allowing Sarah to really perform vocally (again the harmonies were perfect and the chemistry between them on show the whole time).
‘Make a Liar Out of Me’ wrapped things up and it was Sarah’s chance to shine on slide guitar, her playing full of tricks which are just for show but dazzling to watch. A short encore followed ending with a cover of the Elvis classic ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. I was blown away – I think I had something in my eye and maybe a cold coming on hence the lump in my throat. The passionate audience sang every word and Sarah and Justin could hardly contain their glee for the group of people who lapped up, loved, enjoyed, admired, and had the night of their lives.
We were treated to 16 songs which were a mixture of full band, acoustic, covers, John and Jacob re-appearing, mandolin, slide guitar, Thin Lizzy-style twin guitar solos, jazz, shredding and a tiny guitar (just for fun). I cannot wait to see Striking Matches again.
Their debut album is great but it doesn’t do the live show justice. I don’t care what music you think you’re into, do yourself a favour and keep an eye out for Striking Matches, they’re going to be huge.
I’m now officially a convert to country, “Yee har!”