Striking Matches – Stereo, Glasgow – 28/10/19

A ticket for this show fell into my lap after two previous holders had to pull out due to other commitments. Other than having heard those previous ticket holders rave about Striking Matches I really didn’t know anything about them.

I’d heard them described as Country, and having a huge soft spot for Country music I took up the supernumerary ticket and fired up my streaming platform to further acquaint myself with their music. After an hour or so, while liking what I was hearing, I couldn’t help thinking that it wasn’t really Country music at all.

Then on hearing that support would be from Canadian country singer Tenille Townes I gave a little contented inward shrug and thought, “OK, let’s just let this play out and see what happens”.

Stereo was busy when we arrived half way through Townes’ first song ‘Where You Are’; this was definitely country. Every one of her seven song acoustic set had me falling in love with her beautiful voice and emotional lyrics over and over again. There was even a spellbinding version of U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ with the Glasgow crowd never shy about joining in. Tenille Townes has herself a new fan.

After a short break, Striking Matches opened their set with their 2018 single ‘Retrograde’. Even before this opening song was finished my chin had already hit the floor several times. My mouth gaped open as I witnessed Sarah Zimmerman give quite possibly the best slide guitar performance I have ever seen. Good grief! We were one song in and this place was absolutely on fire.

As I’ve said, this was my first Striking Matches show, and having only just listened to them that afternoon the actual song titles haven’t stuck with me yet. But what was striking was that as far as I could remember this was not what I had listened to earlier in the day. Yes, the words and the melodies were the same, but my goodness, those guitars in the hands of Justin and Sarah took those recorded tracks, ripped them up, shredded them and spat them back out with so much skill and energy it was hard to keep up.

I recently watched a video of a friend’s granddaughter, in full princess dress, watching Disney On Ice while utterly unable to contain her joy and excitement. I fully expect that I must have looked very similar throughout this show. Well, minus the dress.

The songs I do remember the titles of were ‘Trouble Is As Trouble Does’, ‘When It’s Raining’ and of course ‘When The Right One Comes Along’ but there were some real cracking covers in the set list too. It’s not often you hear a sublime country version of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Going to Give You Up’. The Beatles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ was a fair reminder for me to snap my own guitar in two and sacrifice it to these two guitar gods as soon as I got home. It was only as the show was reaching its final quarter that it became apparent that Sarah, while suffering from a bit of a cold, was starting to struggle vocally, so a cover of Average White Band’s ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ gave her a bit of respite.

The masterful and extended jamming on blues classic ‘Crossroad Blues’ also gave the voice a rest but the energy from those guitars was amazing. I also have to say that if this was her struggling then I should also give up on the singing. In shows like this, especially with solo support acts, I always love it when the headliners invite their guest on stage to perform with them. Sarah and Justin duly obliged and Tenille joined them on stage. The room waited expectantly, not knowing what we were going to hear. Within the first few notes of the introduction groups of friends turned to each other smiling and nodding as we were treated to an absolutely stunning version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’.

The show concluded with an encore of ‘I Ain’t Leaving Without Your Love’. This was the last night of the tour and if every other city let them go with as much love as Glasgow showed them then they can head home safe in the knowledge that that love is given freely and will only grow until they return.

Striking Matches do country, but not like Country does country. They do blues, but not like Blues does blues. They do rock, but not like Rock does rock. They do guitar like Guitar wishes it did guitar. Above all they do one hell of a show.

Alan Vaughan
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