Matt Goss - Manchester Academy 3 - 22.7.03

The passion is still there 15 years after Matt Goss released his first record. The fans may have moved on, got married, had kids even - but still in the back of their minds they're 12 again and Goss is the only man in their life's. As I stand around waiting in the venue before sound check a group of fans rush the van as their idol approaches. It may be the smallest gig he's ever done, but in these intimate surroundings Matt Goss is back in style!!!

"I make my wish upon a star And hope this night will last forever" sums up the feeling of the night as Matt heads on-stage for Ana outstanding version of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody". For younger readers of Designer Magazine this might just be that song which Liberty X mashed up bootleg style, but for Matt Goss it's a statement of intent which rises above any accusations of karaoke idol. In these intimate surroundings it's hard to forget that this is a man who played Wembley Stadium 15 nights in a row and a few days later will be playing to a sold out audience at Shepherds Bush Empire. The fact that an audience of maybe 200 people are witnessing what is in fact a stadium sized production is something that few will forget and if it wasn't hot enough already "I Owe You Nothing", a song many thought they would hear live again, is thrown casually away as the second song.

So often comeback artists simply rely on former glories you almost expect their new material to be nothing more than pale imitations. With Matt Goss it's a refreshing change. Still reassuringly pop yet avoiding all the pitfalls trying to be overtly musically mature (i.e. boring) and still managing to bring his own personality to the fore. "Face The Wind" is perhaps one of the weaker tracks in his repertoire, but it's the first one we get to hear tonight and with a descending string section reminiscent of Muse' cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" it's potentially one of those tracks more suited to bedsit blues than a live show. "Carolyn" is a song about Matt's sister who died tragically at the hands of a drunk driver during the peak of his success with Bros. More a celebration of her life and something to remember her by than a maudlin ballad, the track is celebratory and uplifting. "I'm Coming With You" is a song written 10 days previous in a hotel bedroom and it's the most in your face pop songs in the set, backed with a light reggae beat it's one of those songs you'll be hearing next summer.

The baton has been passed from Lennon to Gallagher and now to Goss as he steals those unforgettable chords from "Imagine" for his comeback single "Watch Me Fall". A song about wanting to kill yourself it seems that Goss is ever increasingly mixing downbeat lyrics with upbeat tunes in a way that musicologists would say should never be done. Swinging between a light pop for the verses and then rocking up for the chorus in a way that David Sneddon never could do - it's the song that will ensure he sinks or swims. Few songs will match up to "When Will I Be Famous" and it was always going to be foolish trying to, but after a piano ballad "Goodbye" he finally does it with his cover of "The Self Preservation Society" from the legendary Italian Job. He came, he saw and he conquered!!!

Alex McCann

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