Emperor X @ Bold Street Coffee – Reviewed


Bold Street Coffee hosted an evening of discovery and fraternity last week rounded off nicely by Emperor X…

In a recent interview, Chad Matheny insisted that the moniker he has performed under for as long as he can remember came about purely arbitrarily, something you pick up randomly following a throwaway remark in class, or at the student union bar. Whatever the truth of where or how his name arose, Emperor X is a nice fit for the former science teacher. If not necessarily in terms of the size his empire currently stands, then at the very least in that he certainly added to it last Thursday.

First up though, the night was set on course by a late addition to the bill in Flashing Astraptes. Playing head down, fuzzy but sophisticated noise on electric guitar, he wouldn’t seem out of place somewhere early on in the bill at any ATP you may have been to. Though raw, and the compositions (you wouldn’t call them songs, as such) at times feeling incomplete, Flashing Astraptes is worth keeping an eye and an ear out for, one suspects there’s more to come from him.

Up next were Sing For Your Supper, advertised beforehand as ‘Liverpool’s best kept secret’. It is odd that a collective boasting Lucy from Stealing Sheep who play beautiful, pastoral folk don’t get more regular airings (until you go back and give a cursory glance at Stealing Sheep’s tour schedule), so we were grateful indeed to have been introduced to them here. With chances to catch them possibly remaining few and far between, if you happen upon them you’ll feel you’ve discovered a little gem.

“Who is this guy and why haven’t I heard or seen him before?”

Following another short (more impressive and confident) slot from Flashing Astraptes, and without pomp or ceremony, Emperor X takes his place front and centre (in the window if you were a passerby on Bold Street that night), to perform in the bustling and happy setting of Bold Street Coffee. It’s still light and is – that rarest thing of late – a lovely, balmy evening, the kind of which we have mostly been starved of so far this summer. There is a sense of the communal in the place, a feeling only enhanced when audience members immediately in front sit down, seemingly in unison as if they’d agreed on this beforehand.

There’s little messing around from Matheny as he launches into his set, all closed eyes and earnest emo vocal. We need to qualify that in this case, the closed eyes and emo nature of the vocal are very definitely a good thing. Matheny instantly commands the attention of the crowd; in fact, pretty soon into the set, anyone who came along on the strength of a friend’s recommendation will have been wondering, as we were: “who is this guy and why haven’t I heard or seen him before?”

This made it all the easier for the relatively high level of audience participation Matheny asked of his new fans. He recalled, before playing Erica Western Teleport, that at a previous gig a German guy had shouted that singing “ist your job”!

As you may have already surmised, it wasn’t long before he had the audience in the palm of his hand. In our case (though we were already well on our way), it was the point at which we picked out a reference to (fallen) fellow troubadour Elliott Smith, on Did you ever get help? “Did you ever get sad on your bed late at night / Crying, listening to Either/Or?” It’s a lyric like that which can have half a room supposing the song was written for them alone.

Come the end of the set, and after one last encore, there was a definite sense of fraternity; of new music discovered and new friends having been made. That feeling, like much of Matheny’s work, has – in the nicest possible sense – an air of the ephemeral about it. And yet, as we mentioned right at the top, as he made his way into the night it will have been safe in the knowledge that his empire’s ranks had swollen that little bit, all without a drop of blood having been shed.

Posted on 16/07/2012 by thedoublenegative