In front of a giant glowing heart and perched behind a keyboard is everyone’s favourite South London crooner Matt Maltese – a 22 year-old who has been compared to Leonard Cohen. His first London show since his headline at Scala earlier this summer is met with roars of applause from the Hackney Arts Centre (or EartH as it’s now horrendously named and which support act Fur described as having “primary school assembly vibes” due to its peculiar tiered-bench seating arrangement).
Maltese is a rare kind of musician. While comparisons to Father John Misty are credible, he does something that Mr Tillman fails to do: the songs on his superb 2018 debut album Bad Contestant are drenched in satire but he does not sound like an arsehole. His lyrics are earnest and lovelorn, submerged in superb instrumentals and luxurious harmonies. The interlacing string arrangement creating dialogue between itself and the vocals in ‘Like A Fish’ evoke goosebumps. Every. Damn. Time.
The majority of his work may be based on the mundane and dire but don’t be fooled; he’s quite a funny guy. He tells a hilarious anecdote about the time he went ice-skating with his mum while facing a tremendous comedown – and his dad put the photo on the family calendar: “For the whole of June my Nonna had to see her sweet Matthew in a really bad place”. He lovingly dedicates ‘Less And Less’ to a friend in the audience with a heartfelt “This is for you, you miserable bastard”. With the wit of a well-versed comic, he rises from his seat mid-stage only for the closing song – sauntering across the stage and having a little jig about for the aptly-named ‘Greatest Comedian’. After a mimicked encore – the lights dim for 10 seconds and illuminate again with Matt exclaiming “oh look, we’re back!” – he absorbs the laughter from the crowd before launching into apocalyptic love ballad ‘As The World Caves In’.
“They say the underdogs are always the best ones.”
Matt Maltese is here and he’s going to save us all from disaster.