Matt Nathanson has performed in Rochester several times in the past few years, and he returned again this past weekend to perform in Strong Auditorium with opening guest Megan McCormick.

When walking to Strong Auditorium for the Matt Nathanson concert on Friday, Oct. 22, I had the expectation that the concert would be like his music: characteristically mellow. But what I learned after the concert was that Matt Nathanson is anything but predictable.

The opening act was up-and-coming artist Megan McCormick, rooted in Nashville and given recognition by Oprah. During her set she expressed that she was often afraid when she went to college campuses to perform, because she deemed her music as something that parents would like better.

Unfortunately, that may have been the case. While she was an excellent performer, with outstanding bass and drum accompaniment, the mood of the audience during her songs was distracted.

In the back of the auditorium, there was a buzz of conversation from disinterested students, which took away from what may have been a great performance.

However, Nathanson made sure that from the beginning of his set all eyes were on him. As the lights went down in the house, Destiny Child’s song “Bootylicous” blared over the speakers, eliminating all preconceived notions that Nathanson would put on a boring or predictable concert.

He opened with one of his more popular songs “Car Crash,” which gave him credibility as an artist and let the audience have a taste of what they already knew. But after that song, Nathanson veered into unexpected territory with a mixture of hilarious comments in between songs and covers from genres that one would not associate with Nathanson.

The first cover he performed was “Laid,” by James, which he prefaced by teaching the chorus, essentially a high-pitched squeal, to the audience. Hearing the crowd imitate this added humor to the show enhanced Nathanson’s performance with the direct participation.

The second cover, AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” took a significantly different turn from the rest of the concert, but made it all the more fun to watch as the audience willingly followed Nathanson on his new musical journey.

After telling the audience about how he watched VH1’s “Metal Mania,” he felt that the genre of metal was “underrepresented.” Therefore, he felt UR needed a healthy dose of it in this rousing rendition, to which the audience was encouraged to sing along.

It was during this song when all hell broke loose – the audience stood up and many students found their way out of their seats to the edge of the stage.

From the beginning, Nathanson established a comfortable and fun relationship with the audience, keeping them involved with sing-alongs and commenting on certain outbursts from the crowd.

He even appealed to the nerdiness of the students at UR by making references to “Star Wars.”

At one point he compared the way the Death Star was going to blow up the planet Alderon, while Princess Leia watched, to the feeling of sexual desire that one gets when with another person — and this was all in relation to the subject of one of his admittedly mellow songs.

Once Nathanson took command of the stage, he brought UR on a wild ride through nerdy references, humorous anecdotes and metal, while still delivering studio-quality songs that the audience knew and loved.

Once the concert ended, Nathanson’s delightful energy was still felt as the crowd filed out of the auditorium. To say that the concert was predictable in any way would be the furthest sentiment from the truth, as Nathanson kept the audience on their toes — literally.

Olfano is a member of the class of 2012.

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