Matt Maltese – The Haunt, Brighton – 26th November 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

While 2018 has, largely, seen the rise in raucous, politically-charged anthems take the limelight – with the likes of Shame and Idles producing incredible moments both on record and in the live sphere – and capturing the imaginations of wild, youthful audiences, there’s also been a quieter, more reflective style sending adolescent music fans into raptures. One such artist is Matt Maltese, who released his debut album, Bad Contestant, in the summer, and celebrated his fantastic year with a lowkey show at The Haunt.

With an audience made up of a majority of teenage girls, it’s instantly clear to see that Maltese’s schmaltzy, lounge-rock aesthetic has struck a chord. Throughout the night, as the London artist showcased his excellent debut record to genuine screams and mass singalongs, there was a sense of excitement and jubilance in the air that you don’t often find in venues such as The Haunt. Considering the night was not sold out, and Maltese spent most of the evening sat behind his piano, his jaunty take on indie brought emotional, goosebump-inducing moments that many will keep with them for a very long time.

First, however, saw yet another superb turn from Brighton band Fur. Providing the main support for Maltese’s entire tour, the Brighton quartet – turned quintet in a live setting – are getting better and better with each performance and are beginning to develop quite the fanbase. The likes of ‘If You Know That I’m Lonely’ and ‘What Would I Do?’ are dutifully sung back to the band, while brand-new single ‘Angel Eyes’ goes down a treat. With that 50s vibe that is oh so present on record slightly dialled down in a live setting, the band both look and sound like the next indie superstars. It’s no surprise that they’ve headlined this venue on their own.

With an air of excitement before Maltese arrived onstage, to rapturous applause, it’s a little strange to see Maltese hide behind his piano for the majority of the show. Nevertheless, the self-proclaimed ‘Brexit pop pioneers’ songs are good enough to carry it off. A classic songwriter in every sense of the word, the likes of ‘Guilty’ and ‘Bad Contestant’ are breezy, buoyant numbers that evoke the great Father John Misty, and tell such beautifully weaved stories that he needn’t sing on the night, such is the size of the singalong. Self-deprecating lyrics such as: “I’m a bad, bad contestant/I ain’t much but baby I could impress ya” and benevolent wordplay like: “Cause I want you/And that’s the way it is”, Maltese could stake his claim as the first ever indie millennial popstar.

It’s when he emerges from behind his piano for ‘Greatest Comedian’, however, where he really starts to exhibit his crooner qualities. Waltzing across the stage, and wailing in his trademark adoring manner, he expresses an old-fashioned characteristic far beyond his years. With a few new songs sprinkled in for good measure, too, called ‘Hello Black Dog’ and ‘You Don’t Even Try’, it’s clear that Maltese shows no signs of letting up. Affected and affectionate, but with enough musical nouse to not become overly schmaltzy, Matt Maltese is a star.

Liam McMillen