Phosphorescent is a 7-piece band led by a rhinestone cowboy. Matthew Houck has been recording and performing (and presumably wearing tight pants and a cowboy hat) under the moniker since 2001. Last night, Houck visited The Sinclair with his troupe of musicians for a highly anticipated, highly sold-out show; they did not disappoint.
The Phosphorescent crew filed onto the stage one by one. Each member gave a casual wave to the audience as he wound his way through flowers and burning incense. Two percussionists, a pair of keyboardists, a bassist and a lead guitarist formed a ring around Houck before launching into some lo-fi, indie folk rock that was blanketed in a thick layer of twang. Phosphorescent’s manpower allowed them to create rich textures, and each instrumentalist supplemented the sonic latticework purposefully and without vanity, always keeping an eye on the man in the center of the ring.
There’s no question of who runs this show: Houck writes the songs, stands front and center and flaunts a vocal style that differentiates Phosphorescent from other alt. country bands. He sang with a Tom Petty laze imbued with a charming Springsteen hoarseness, making his efforts sound authentically bucolic in a heartland rock kind of way. And somewhere buried within the music laid a melancholic seductiveness that subtly pervaded the room. One could imagine the enigmatic frontman conceiving late-night writing sessions by listening to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” Whatever it was, it added sensual depth to Houck's impressive vocal arpeggios, as well as to the otherwise hackneyed hat waggles he vaunted from behind his steel guitar.
After a satisfying set that included much of 2013’s Muchacho and a handful of older gems, the band filed back offstage to leave Houck by himself. Armed with a guitar and an arcane cowboy grin, he set to work, personally swooning his audience through a mini-set highlighted by the 2007 track, “Wolves.” Throughout the song, Houck looped and harmonized his vocals until the resulting cacophony resembled an boisterous pack of, yeah, wolves.
After thunderous applause, the band rejoined Houck onstage for a two-song encore. Untimely technical problems cut the sound from the vocalist’s guitar, but Phosphorescent handled the situation seamlessly and ended the show with a considerably potent jam—just one of those riffs that you never wanted to end. Alas, as is the case with all things, end it did. But I can guarantee you one thing my friends, I will be in attendance for Phosphorescent’s next Boston performance, if for no other reason than to watch Houck ride off into the sunset.