Beneath the grand late-Victorian arches and between the tastefully faded gold-leaf pillars of Camden’s Koko, indie-pop balladeer and wunderkind Matt Maltese ruled the roost. The stage was arranged with lounge vibes dialled in – lit gently from behind by mid-century lamps and decorated with artfully arranged houseplants – and it’s an appropriately warm and leafy setting for a show balancing the bombast of his grander ballads, with the softer intimacy of his more recent albums.
“Like A Fish” and “As The World Caves In” from 2017’s Bad Contestant both take off as they rightly should, but this is paired with gorgeous performances of “Krystal” and You “Deserve An Oscar” from his two subsequent albums. For most of his set he’s equipped with a lean and adept rhythm section, but when he plays alone – illuminated by a single spot, of course – it’s exactly as stunning as you might expect. We, his Enraptured Crowd, are treated to a stirring double bill of yearners “When You Wash Your Hair” and “Krakow”. There’s even space for brief bossa-nova renditions of a few songs to emerge, shuffling into the stage light, and I shall feel a deep and cavernous sense of injustice should this angle not be explored any further.
A word on the crowd. The theatre is very busy – in his own words the biggest show of his life. that he seems at all daunted by this – he remains composed and confident, especially in dealing with the malevolent disruption of a misbehaving sustain pedal. Matt remarks on stage that his friends have told him his shows are an excuse for couples to make out in public, and that he’s completely here for it. Matt’s music has always expressed a particular sense of desire and longing, equal parts rhapsodic and tender, so it makes a lot of sense that some of his songs seem to have been chosen as the “our song” by the innumerable, trendy young couples out in force on this particular evening. I didn’t really see many PDAs though, and it would be weird of me to look out for any, but there’s definitely a lot of love in the room. This is nice.
Words: Ed Hambly // Photos: Oscar Blair