Phosphorescent goes it alone at a soul-stirring Free At Noon - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Watching a singer-songwriter perform solo, sans backing band, can reveal a lot. Lacking layered backing vocals, a drummer’s grounding backbeat, or the magic of studio wizardry, you see an artist alone at their rawest and realest. That was certainly the case for Phosphorescent (Matthew Houck), who shared a double bill with Peter Yorn at this week’s Free at Noon show.

He performed for a sold-out crowd, yet delivered a deeply introspective, intimate show. His strain of reflective folk-rock is full of thoughtful, often melancholy lyrics and his emotional songwriting really shone through in the stripped-down setting. He began with three songs from his upcoming album, Revelator, which Verve will release on April 5th. The title track debuted along with a music video earlier this week and sounded especially resonant here. The song is a pandemic-era ballad with lyrics about exhaustion, longing, and a long-term relationship. While introducing these new tracks, Phosphorescent bluntly stated “this new record…there’s really no way to sugarcoat it…it’s a bummer. I’m sorry.” The comment earned a collective chuckle from the crowd.

Although Revelator will be the first Phosphorescent studio album in six years, the artist tided fans over with the 2022 release of The Full Moon Project. Consisting of covers of his favorite songs, he first released the tracks as singles coinciding with the appearance of a full moon. At World Cafe Live, he performed two of those tracks for an appreciative audience. First was “Any Old Miracle”, originally written and performed by Vern Gosdin. The Philly crowd was treated to some Nashville nostalgia with his personal take on the old tune. The next cover, “Meridian Ms.,” was a touching tribute to a friend: fellow musician Raymond Raposa. The wary, wistful performance was a powerful tribute to Raposa, who died tragically in 2022.

Phosphorescent wrapped up his brief but bracingly heartfelt set with his most popular track, “Song for Zula.” Without the echoey drums and bittersweet string melody of the original recording, his utterly transfixing voice shone through even brighter. The singer’s vocals convey a lifetime of moods and feelings: love, heartache, loss, longing. “You see the cage it called, I said, come on in – I will not open myself this way again”, he sang. Yet there he stood, open and honest, baring his soul for the adoring crowd.

Free At Noon
  • Revelator
  • The World Is Ending
  • Impossible House
  • Any Old Miracle
  • Meridian, MS
  • Song For Zula
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