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Acoustic guitarist headlines RiverFest

BY JOSIE JONES | APRIL 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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Matt Nathanson compares the back-and-forth banter with his audience to having sex with a stranger. While not talking does have its place, he said, it’s more fun to talk and “get to know the audience before we make the sweet love.”

For the Massachusetts native, it feels natural to communicate and have a connection with his audience.

Nathanson will perform an acoustic set at 7:30 p.m. April 25 in the IMU second-floor ballroom.

Admission is $18.50 for students, $24.50 for the general public. The show is general-admission seating, and it will be the closing show of RiverFest 2010.

In August 2007, the artist released his most recent album, Some Mad Hope, which features the platinum-selling single “Come On Get Higher,” as well as hits including “Car Crash” and “Still.” The record peaked at No. 60 on the Billboard 200.

Over his career, Nathanson has toured with such artists as John Mayer, P!nk, and OAR, and he has played more than 250 live shows in the past two years. He’s even performed on the “Late Show with David Letterman” as well as with Daryl Hall on his monthly Internet concert “Live From Daryl’s House.”

So it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that he has a sense of humor and ability to appeal to students and community members — factors that contribute to RiverFest and SCOPE wanting to bring Nathanson to campus. Organizers looked for an entertaining, family-friendly act — and one that has proven to consistently do a good job at that, said TC Lockhart, SCOPE’s general manager.

Not all of Nathanson’s shows are acoustic, but he feels colleges are receptive to the more intimate environment an acoustic set offers.

Lockhart agreed. He feels the show is a unique event to bring to RiverFest.

“I definitely think there’s something special when it’s just one guy performing all of his music directly to the audience,” the UI senior said. “I like the idea that [the audience members will] get something that maybe they can’t get from listening to a CD or listening to the radio.”

And with Nathanson’s performances that’s almost a guarantee. In fact, the singer/songwriter doesn’t know what he’ll perform until 45 minutes before the show, and he will sometimes even play a song he didn’t plan at request from the audience.

With six studio albums, Nathanson has a deep pool of tunes to choose from. He sometimes plays covers because they’re fun to perform or “maybe I heard a Rihanna song on the drive in, and I feel like busting into ‘Rude Boy,’ ” he said.

Both emotions and humor are heightened during his acoustic sets because the connection is intimate. And that’s why he feels crowd interaction is crucial.

“It’s not just me getting up there and performing for people. It’s kind of like our party,” he said. “I might be the guy hosting the party, but people have to bring the bean dip.”

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