By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published May 06, 2005 at 5:21 AM

{image1}Wednesday night's Aqualung show at the Pabst Theater -- part of a new series of ten-dollar shows -- boils down to a few slippery words.

"Strange." Aqualung (aka Matt Hale) personifies the expression "weird in a good way." The British 20-something resembles the atypical art student (good haircut, cool button-down shirt that comes off as a spontaneous choice even though, chances are, it wasn't). But he's also a pining, piano-playing poet with a sweet sense of humor. Probably the type who grew up being told he was strange, only to channel his oddness into songs, one of which appeared in the VW commercial that launched Hale's career into orbit.

"Lucky." See final sentence in "Strange" paragraph.

"Beautiful." Admittedly, we were prepared to potentially nod off, knowing the lullaby pace of Aqualung's music, but surprisingly, our eyes were the size of buoys for the entire gig. From behind his piano, Hale delivered twelve songs and two encores, all of which were, well, bee-u-tee-ful, including the free-floating "If I Fall," the opening tune "Easier To Lie" and the melancholy encore, "Another Little Hole," the final tune on the album. (Also beautiful: The stunning Pabst Theater and the fact you can bring drinks to your seats.)

"Warm." Perhaps the warmth -- which filled the theater even though half of the seats were empty -- came from the playfully sincere relationship between Hale and his guitarist and brother, Ben. The harmonies, the banter, the near-perfect timing resulted in a comfortable, "family" feeling -- especially during moments like when a smirking Ben gingerly offered lyrics to the tongue-tied Matt. Like butter? No, more like PB & J with the crust cut off or grilled cheese and tomato soup on a rainy day in England.

"Yearnful." A friend referred to Aqualung as "single person's music." It's true. Hale is one of the last great romantics, a Romeo with a Web site, and a man-boy who -- to paraphrase a band from Ireland -- still hasn't found what he's looking for. But even the merrily matched can relate to his feelings of wistfulness, loneliness and desire.

"This one is for anyone who's wanted something so much they resorted to foul play," he said before sliding into the title track of "Strange and Beautiful."

"Funny." Although he sounded, at times, as sad as Nick Drake, as intense as Sting and as soulful as David Gray, Hale was funny. After gigging in chain of bars and clubs, he was clearly smitten with The Pabst, saying it reminded him of the theater in "The Muppet Show."

"I must be Kermit," he said.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.