Matt Corby @ The Toff 08/07/10

Matt Corby was only 16 when he was the runner-up on the 2007 series of Australia Idol. A lot has changed since then. He’s grown a beard, released an EP and has proved that it is possible for decent music to come out of a reality TV show. Tonight a sold-out, mostly female crowd braved Melbourne’s weather to watch him launch the debut single from his upcoming album.

Thanks to Melbourne’s wonderful public transport system, I managed to miss most of Ben Abraham’s set. What I did see was great. Joined by a guitarist, he played the kind of laid back folk music that would make Jack Johnson feel slightly inferior. He performed a great acoustic cover of Gotye’s Heart’s a Mess, complete with an enthusiastic crowd sing-a-long. If there’s one thing that has to be said about Ben Abraham’s set, it’s his brilliant knack at crowd interaction. And after telling us that we works with the Starlight Foundation, there wasn’t a woman in the audience who didn’t want to take him home to meet their mum. He finished with his track Going Crazy, which also featured a crowd-sing-a-long, with two sides of the room trying to out sing each other. There’s no doubt that the mostly seated crowd loved every minute of it.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Tara Simmons. Emerging on stage in an impressive reflective outfit, she spent the set behind her keyboard playing a mixture of offbeat pop songs that varied between the sounds of Regina Spektor and La Roux. While here songs were good, she didn’t engage the audience and it was clear that many lost interest during her set. That said there were still some great moments. She introduced each song, and the story behind it, which worked effectively with the tracks Everybody Loves You, about her brother when he was sick and my personal favourite Rosemary a track a dedicated to a particularly unpleasant customer at work. Part of the crowd disinterest was probably due to her playing before Matt Corby and there’s no doubt she would be a million times better in a headline show.

After a bit of a wait and the heater being turned up to uncomfortable levels, Matt Corby and his band took to the stage and were greeted by a cheering crowd. As soon as he opens his mouth to sing it becomes instantly clear why he did so well on Australian Idol. His voice is amazing and manages to silence an entire room full of eager female fans, which is no easy feat. He sings over loops of his voice, much like an Australian Bon Iver and adds layers that make him stand out from the rest of the singer-songwriter pack. He launches straight into My False, a Mumford and Sons style folk song with a whistling solo that has the potential to get stuck in your head for days.

While the tempo did slow down from there, it was by no means boring. He told the crowd about getting lost on the way to Melbourne and having a pay for a parking ticket before launching into some more tracks. While most of the songs he played were not on his Songs For… EP, the crowd didn’t lose interest and he was met with thunderous applause at each song’s finish. One of the definite highlights of the night was Letters, a sweet acoustic song that was the public’s first glimpse into the kind of music that he could create. Switching to keys for the last two songs, he played a jazz inspired number that fit in well with the rest of the set.

As soon as he left the stage the chants for an encore began. He introduced the final track of the night as the song he wished he’d written before putting on a deep voice and launching into a cover of Amazing Grace, which understandably, had a mixed reaction from the crowd.

Matt Corby is one of those rare artists who have escaped the reality TV mould to create moving and interesting music and if tonight was anything to go by, we’ll be hearing a lot more from him.

You can hear some of his tracks on his Triple J Unearthed page.