Openly gay singer-songwriter Matt Alber performs at FAU

Sarah Pruzansky

In a small room resembling a living room, singer-songwriter Matt Alber serenades the audience playing original songs and cover songs. Photo by Melissa Landolfa.
In a small room resembling a living room, singer-songwriter Matt Alber serenades the audience playing original songs and cover songs. Photo by Melissa Landolfa.
Standing in front of a bamboo board decked out with white cone lights, musician Richard Cortez anticipates the arrival of a singer and guitarist he’s come to admire, Matt Alber. Although Cortez used to open concerts for Tom Goss, who has played shows with Alber, Cortez has never seen Alber perform live, making tonight a special night for him.

The concert, ‘Lost Valentine,’ was held in the Jaffe Center on on the third floor of the Wimberly Library on Wednesday evening, Feb. 19. It was Alber’s third time performing at FAU.

“It’s exciting singing when you’re surrounded by one of a kind books,” Alber said to South Florida Gay News a week before his performance. “It’s also surprisingly fun to go to the library when you don’t have to study, and instead just listen to music.”

Not long after the beginning of the reception, which started at 7 p.m., Matt Alber walks through the door decorated with bamboo lanterns, past the four tables set up for the guests, and over to Cortez.

Striking up a conversation with Cortez, Alber is both relaxed and excited for his concert at 8 p.m.

“It’s like the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen,” Alber said. “And I rarely get to sing in such a nice, intimate place … where I’m just ten feet away from all the people in the audience.”

The audience sat in a small space resembling a living room. Gray bookcases were set up behind the black piano which sat on a red Victorian rug. Nearby was a CJ Martin & Co. Est. 1833 acoustic guitar next to an old-fashioned wooden chair.

Cortez loved being able to see Alber perform in such an intimate setting. “If you think about the grand scheme of music, he’s actually quite low on the totem pole of celebrities. But for his music recorded to sound exactly like his voice is truly a remarkable thing,” Cortez said. “I’m really glad I was here to witness that.”

Opening the concert on piano with his song “Brother Moon,” Alber’s voice was touching to members of the audience.

Singer-songwriter Matt Alber talks with fans at the reception before his 'Lost Valentine' concert. Photo by Melissa Landolfa.
Singer-songwriter Matt Alber talks with fans at the reception before his ‘Lost Valentine’ concert. Photo by Melissa Landolfa.
“I think Matt has a really great connection with the audience and I think that he’s very charismatic,” Cortez said. “He’s easy to understand … He gives just enough background about the music for you to understand where he’s coming from but also leaves enough room to interpret it in your own way … Plus the tonality of his voice, is such an incredible instrument.”

After finishing up the song “Brother Moon,” Alber looked out at the audience of approximately 50 people and smiled. “Hello, how are you? You all look wonderful. I believe I got the better seat here,” Alber said to the audience.

Alber performed original songs such as “Velvet Goldmine” and “End of the World,” along with covers such as Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”

One song he performed stood out to Scott Rachesky, an FAU graduate with a B.A. in English and certificate in women, gender, and sexuality studies.

“I’d have to say the ‘Always’ cover when he went a capella, because I’m a singer in a choir and a capella’s very difficult for the choir, let alone one person individually,” Rachesky said. “So I was very impressed when he did that.”

This was Rachesky’s second time seeing Alber in concert. He heard about him one day at work and became an instant fan. He listened to Alber’s “End of the World” 30 times in a row as he worked. This led to him getting one of Alber’s CDs and getting Alber’s autograph at Alber’s last concert on campus.

“I think his lyricism is beautiful,” Rachesky said. “I think the way he forms the poetry of his lyrics is not typical one person writing a song. It’s very deep and insightful. Plus, he’s gay. I’m gay. And it’s not often that you find gay artists singing about gay scenarios.”

Alber, an openly gay singer and a strong gay rights activist, is not afraid to show that in his music.

“A lot of the stuff I sing about is, well, like a lot of songwriters, I write songs about going on dates, falling in love, getting your heart broken,” Alber said. “For me it’s usually, it’s always about another guy. So it kind of meant a lot to me to sing about my experiences. While I was growing up, there wasn’t anybody singing about falling in love with another guy. I’ve kind of always had to transpose myself into the song. So I don’t know if it means anything to anybody else. I don’t change any of the pronouns in my songs. I just sing it from my own experience. When I came out, I instantly became happier. Everybody deserves to fall in love with who they want to and the second part of that is don’t settle.”

Because of the messages Alber sends through his music and the talent of his music, Rachesky said more people should listen to him.

“The simple fact that he’s writing the music and not hiding his sexuality is very impactful and more people should listen to him,” Rachesky said. “And we need more artists like this, singing about gay scenarios without trying to hide or cover it with heterosexual norms in place.”