LIVE REVIEW: blackbear @ Academy, Manchester (30/10/2019)

Credit: Promo

Date: October 30th, 2019
Venue: Academy, Manchester
Support: Gabriel Black


The world of modern rap, hip-hop and R&B has its fair share of emo influences and artists who were formerly in punk and hardcore bands nowadays. One name who fits that bill is blackbear (aka Matthew Musto).

Since those humble beginnings, Musto has worked alongside a number of a big named pop artists (Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish) and rock stars (Mike Shinoda, Tyler Carter), all the while also blending the two worlds into his own work. His latest effort, ‘Anonymous’, dropped a few months ago, and, ending in Manchester tonight, he’s showcasing that live to his UK fanbase.

Enlisted as the sole support act for the run, enigmatic singer/songwriter Gabriel Black [5] comes out donning the perfect outfit for the Halloween season – a skeleton onesie. With not a lot of material to work with just yet, Black‘s set is relatively short, and though songs like ‘Sad Boy’ and ‘Blue Skies’ aren’t bad, there’s nothing engaging enough from them to latch onto.

‘Dead Yet’ is easily the prime moment of his 20 or so minutes on stage, and joining him to give it that extra boost is its feature artist, Phem. Along with Black handing out a large flag to a fan on the front row to wave around, the two deliver a track which shows the potential that the up-and-comer has, with it’s almost grunge-y instrumental backdrop similar to that of ‘Where Is My Mind?’ by The Pixies.

Coming out to ‘Chateau’, blackbear [7] makes his first half of the set one that focuses on the more pop and R&B driven pieces in his back-catalogue. He pounces around the stage with an abundance of energy during ‘i miss the old u’, and if you’ve never seen a wave of smart phones bouncing up and down then just catch the Palm Coast singer/rapper pull out ‘gucci linen’ the next time he passes through your town.

‘Deadroses’ marks a somewhat midway intermission period of the set. blackbear walks off the stage (which we later find out happens to be for a quick outfit change) whilst the song plays in the background, and that continues to the be the case for following number ‘NYLA’ too. Admittedly, it’s a little lazy and a bit of a cop out, but what it does allow us to witness is the talent of his touring drummer Klueworld and his touring guitarist too, both of who improvise and perform solos around the two songs.

blackbear eventually returns to the stage with a guitar in hand, and, with that and the aid of his two touring members, adds a completely different spin to the next few songs that follow. Indeed, stripping the likes of ‘90210’ and ‘1 SIDED LOVE’ of their synthetic electronics and wrapping them in the buzzsaw of crunchy guitar chords and organic drum work gives a different and refreshing perspective to the songs, and gives us a look back on the singer’s more rock orientated roots.

By the time we reach ‘do re mi’, admittedly the adrenaline coursing through the crowd has died down a bit, but, with everything that we’ve seen to this point, blackbear has shown us his stature as a songwriter and performer, and also his flexibility to keep things fresh. If he ever decides to put together and release something of his own leaning more to his rock origins, we might just capture him at his most complete and exhilarating form yet.