“Let’s go Boston!” It’s 2:00am on a Friday night in Boston, Massachusetts. Sipping on a pink concoction given to me by Tom Straete at the conclusion of our interview, I’m stuck wondering how this night even happened. Rarely do I have to chance to meet a performer as kind and humble as Tom or should I say Matoma? Yep, that’s right. Matoma isn’t his given name, people call him Tom, and he’s just like every last one of us. Actually, he’s one of the most genuine people and hands down the most genuine musician I’ve had the fortune to meet during my time as a concert photographer/interviewer.
I was able to witness this first hand, post-show, as he took time to meet fans at his merchandise table. Unlike many performers, he’s not elusive. He took a special interest in a fan, Ronald Thompson, and brought him backstage to discuss the improvements needed in order to make concert-going and day to day activities more accessible for those in wheelchairs. There was nothing fake about this interaction and it was certainly done from the heart and not for publicity. This was just a man looking for a way to use his influence to help others.
After watching this interaction, it came as no surprise that Charles, one of Tom’s crew, had to inform me post-interview that this string of shows is a climate positive tour. This means that Tom donates proceeds from his shows to effectively erase the carbon footprint caused during travel and performances. In fact, he goes above and beyond by donating more than enough to clear him of any environmental pollution. Few artists would do this, even fewer would do so without announcing it to the world. But, no one is here to read my raving review of a man’s character. You’re here for the music.
The concert itself was a hit. Sprinting through the cold, I grabbed my passes, skipped the line, and entered the venue as quickly as possible to have time to talk to my favorite security guard named Tony. I’ll be the first to admit that although I enjoy listening to EDM music it is not my first pick of concerts to report on. I find them difficult to shoot with the giant podiums and often times have a hard time connecting with the artists because of the separation caused by the podium. The first opener Youngr defeated all odds and left the audience jazzed and ready for a night full of music.
Youngr, a artist from the UK, places emphasis on percussion. This should come as no surprise since he’s been banging on the drums since the end of his basketball career at the age of 12. He’s a blast to watch as he jumps around from bass to drums, to singing. Thrusting the mic stand into the air at one point during his performance, he kept the audience holding on to his every word and movement. He was explosive, a true man of the people. Fortunately, I was able to track him down post-show and convince him to partake in a five-minute interview. When asked who he wished he could collaborate with on a track alive or dead, he mentioned Prince. After witnessing him perform, I can only imagine that this track would be legendary as the king of pop’s influence is evident in Youngr’s performances. Furthermore, he takes things like a champ. The fact that his luggage didn’t arrive in Boston in time for the concert didn’t phase him, instead, he’s quoted saying, “it’s my favorite memory on tour thus far.” If that’s not a winning attitude, I don’t know what is.
After Youngr came Elephante otherwise known as Tim Wu, an EDM artist based in Los Angeles. His set featured heavy bass drops that left your insides shaking for minutes after his set. Filled with mixes of popular hits, he kept the audience moving their feet and amped them up further for the main act, Matoma. However, his stage presence was lacking as the podium put a real distance between him and the audience. Additionally, from a lighting standpoint, his setup was rather boring with a heavy focus on blue lighting throughout his entire set. However, at the end of the day, the music is what matters and in that regard the performance was amazing. The press spent far more time dancing together than taking photos.
Finally, after hours of waiting Matoma took the stage and blew everyone in the room out of the water. His opener was one of his new hits on an album to be released in May, “One In A Million”, promoting love and acceptance. In our interview when asked about the track, he stated, “it’s the story around the person that makes them unique. When people say ‘You’re one in a million,’ it’s not because it’s a phrase that’s cliché. I believe you’re actually one in a million.” The rest of the night consisted of well-known classics, among them “All Night” and “Old Thing Back”. Niku, Tom’s tour manager, was kind enough to allow me on stage to ensure the podium did not limit the integrity of my photographs. Standing on the side, looking out into the audience was a magical moment. To see so many people crowded on the floor dancing non-stop to the music around them made me realize how someone could go through the lengths of performing most nights and being separated from the people they love for prolonged periods of time. Take away the lasers, the confetti cannons, the strobe lights and you’re left with a man with a passion for music and desire to provide others with an unforgettable night.