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Matt Gresham at The Islington: ‘He won’t be playing small venues for long’

PUBLISHED: 17:00 31 May 2017

Matt Gresham. Picture: Maximilian Koenig

Matt Gresham. Picture: Maximilian Koenig

Maximilian Koenig Fotografie

Acoustic troubadour Matt Gresham is yet another export churned out from the X Factor machine (albeit the Australian incarnation).

Whilst it is true that purists might sniff, they also might be better to park any prejudice, as it only takes a few moments into his small, low key gig at The Islington to acknowledge that Gresham has the musical chops to match any expected vocal prowess.

With a clutch of singles, Gresham is in London to bang the promotional drum – as well as the very real, lonely bass drum that lies stage left – to promote his upcoming debut album proper. It is a work that has been helmed with the assistance of London Grammar’s Jaymes Young and, in a live setting, the signs bode well.

Guitar-in-tow, he delicately etches out partial chords to form the bedrock for his confessional, heart-on-sleeve lyrics. The bass drum is no passive prop either, as his material reveals itself to be of an intriguing breadth: flipping from torch song elegy to rap-infused musical missive.

There are times when matters are a little too overwrought vocally. Sometimes less is more and, when the rapping starts, it’s hard not to make comparisons to Ed Sheeran; for all of the positive and negative connotations that may engender.

When Gresham foregoes the microphone entirely, however, for something akin to a campfire sing song, he showcases in sobering terms the true extent of his impressive talent. He follows this up with a salute to his hero Paul Simon with a rendition of Boy in the Bubble, and his soulful tenor and nimble finger work are plain to see. He updates it, whilst also being reverent and sincere. It’s a tricky tightrope that is hard to get right.

As the main set wraps up with his latest single, Survive on Love, very few could question his pop nous. Armed with a sound that couldn’t be more “now” if it tried and an end product that is so precision made for success, Gresham will soon be shooting into the big leagues.

He will not be playing small venues for long.

4/5 stars

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