July 4, 2005 – Harbourfront Center – Toronto, Ontario
by Leanda Quinquet
Matt Hales, otherwise known as Aqualung, has been causing quite a stir back in his native land of England with his sensitive pop balladry and Keane-by-way-of-Coldplay melodies. This young man is not to be missed live.
Mr. Hales is an amazing song writer and pianist with an outstanding voice. For this North American tour he is joined by a drummer, a keyboardist and guitarist Ben Hales (his brother).
They started the show by playing a song called "Left Behind." One of the most enjoyable things about watching Aqualung play is listening to Matt’s between-song banter. He is relaxed on stage, and gives off the air that he’s comfortably sitting at the piano in his living room playing music for his friends. Before most of the songs he will tell the audience what the song is about or dedicate it to someone. "Left Behind," he stated in his soft British lilt, "is for Dan our percussionist, because he was left behind last tour because of visa problems…they thought he was a terrorist!"
All the songs throughout the set are solid, the lads at this point in the tour are super tight, and Matt’s vocals are in top form, sweet and clear with pristine delivery. This chap wears his battered heart on his sleeve, singing heartfelt songs of love, hope and loss.
Just before dedicating a song to his wife he mentions that he’s always wanted to make “real, honest music for people. Music full of real feeling.” From anyone else this would just sound plain old cheesy, but coming form Matt, a man who is about as real and straight up as you can get, it sounded nowhere near as such.
The crowd was large for a Monday night, and as the show progressed Matt continued to reel the audience in with his boy next door humble charms, and happy-go-lucky on stage presence. The highlight of the evening was when they played the song "Strange and Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell on You)" a tune that has been receiving much airplay here in North America and in the UK. The audience sang along to the chorus and Matt beamed back at them as he played his much appreciated accompaniment. A few more songs and two encores later and the band were ready to call it a night. Matt politely introduced his band and said his thank yous and goodnights, leaving the audience pleasantly aching for more.