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Everyone's a Critic: Glenn Gamboa and his guest reviewer critique Matt Nathanson's Paramount concert

Newsday music critic Glenn Gamboa took reader Lawrence Worrell to the Paramount Theater in Huntington on April 10. They watched Matt Nathanson's performance and reviewed it together. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

Everyone’s a critic.

Or so the old saying goes.

Indeed, we often hear from our readers, telling us that they disagreed vehemently with what our critics said — remarks along the lines of “How could you people like that [movie, TV show, Broadway show, concert]? We saw the same thing and we hated that [movie, TV show, Broadway show, concert].” 

And vice-versa.

So we thought it would be an interesting experiment if our four critics — Rafer Guzman (movies), Glenn Gamboa (music), Barbara Schuler (Broadway) and Verne Gay (TV) — could all take a guest (someone who was not a professional critic, but wasn’t shy about expressing their opinions) with a passion for the same type of entertainment to attend an event with them, in effect becoming critics themselves.

After the event, the two would compare notes and see just how much they agreed — or disagreed — on what they had just seen.

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When Lawrence Worrell first saw New Edition in concert, he was hooked. Even though the 40-year-old from Central Islip grew up in a musical family — his grandfather was the legendary Sam “Bluzman” Taylor; his mother, Sandra Taylor, is a member of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame’s board of directors and still sings with several groups — it was seeing a group of boys who looked like him onstage that inspired Worrell most to fall in love with music. These days, Worrell not only tours with his own group, Planet LAW, and performs with his mother in A Band Called SAM as a tribute to his grandfather, he also writes about music, its history and the business on his Instagram @planet12law and on Facebook.

All that knowledge made Worrell a great candidate for our guest reviewer, and we decided to check out singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson’s recent show at The Paramount. Here’s an edited version of our discussion following the show:

What did you think of the show?

Incredible. I was blown away. I just became a new fan of his and they just made me even bigger fan. It was entertaining. He captivated you. He knew how to tell the stories within the songs and he showed the relationship between his style of writing and some of the other guys who probably influenced him. He encompassed everything that I think a show of any genre should be.

What was the high point, do you think?

The high point for me of course was “Little Red Corvette” because Prince is my idol … For Matt to translate that into his own style — even the key that he did it in was incredible. It was perfect.

For me, that showed what you were saying about how this is what should happen in any genre. It works because it’s great to see an artist take risks. And he took risks throughout the whole thing that all kind of paid off.

Yes. He obviously has a fan base, as we could tell because the show was pretty damn packed, but even with having a packed show, you still have to be able to keep them entertained thoroughly because, let's keep it honest, acoustic folk-pop is not really known for that. This actually felt like a rock concert without all the pyrotechnics and the amplifiers.

It was just two guys.

Two guys, instruments and a personality. He has so much personality and charisma. He has the whole package, in my opinion.

So when you read concert reviews, what do most critics get wrong?

I would say with most critics, they miss the point that these guys are artists. So much value is being placed on — especially if it's an iconic artist — the comparison to yesteryear. “They're not as good as they were or they have been better.” For a new artist, like Matt, it's more like they want to come off as these deep journalists, so they try to create these little diversions so it doesn't seem like they're giving them the props that they should, so they'll kind of take it back and be like, “Yeah, he was good, but he's too quirky” or “He was cursing too much.”

Were there things that you thought could have been better in the show?

Honestly, no. I think everything was right on time. He didn't let up. Even in the storytelling of certain songs, like the Paul Simon thing was incredible. (Nathanson showed how his song “Giants” was similar to Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “Slip Slidin’ Away.”) Some guys don't know how to connect with the audience and then they tend to come off very boring when they talk.

Yeah, his stories made the songs even better.

It was almost like I was talking to one of my college friends. I could relate to that … And he talked about his daughter and that whole thing. He made it very intimate and that's not easy to do in a huge place like The Paramount.

And we just saw the guy before him, Nick Fradiani (a former "American Idol" winner), fail at that.

Yeah. You don't have to be this excellent musician, but you have to know how to read your crowd. You have to come with confidence … As an artist myself, I've been there. I did a pure hip-hop show where they were clearly there to see my idol, Big Daddy Kane, as I was, too. And at first they was trying to do the whole, “OK, who's this guy?” thing. But by the time we did the fourth or fifth song, we had them screaming. The energy is everything and you've got to use that charisma and confidence to win over your audience.

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