Hamish Hawk – Saint Luke’s, Glasgow – February 16th, 2023
Angel Numbers is the follow-up to Hamish Hawk’s 2021 Heavy Elevator album. It is a superb album, threaded throughout with great song writing and wonderfully impactful musical arrangements. Tonight, Hamish Hawk and his excellent band are playing the penultimate show of the Angel Numbers tour in Glasgow, at the Saint Luke’s venue, in the heart of Glasgow’s Gallowgate area, which hosts the iconic Barrowload Ballroom and the Barras market. The show is completely sold out, and the level of excitement and anticipation in the air is palpable.
Singer songwriter Lizzie Reid provides an excellent opening set, with just acoustic guitar, piano and voice, weaving a musical spell over an appreciative audience. With a voice that at times reminded of the great Dory Previn, there are some striking melodies and even a voice-based trumpet solo. A duet with Russell Stewart on the song Bible provides some lovely vocal counterpoints.
Hamish Hawk and the band take to the stage, with a crackling energy flying between and around Hamish and the band members, as everyone prepares to launch into the set. Dog-eared August, from the new album, is the opening number, which is delivered with a full-throttle attack, to a tumultuous crowd reaction.
This, Whatever It Is, Needs Improvements, from the Heavy Elevator album, showcases the striking tones and sustain that Hamish’s voice can deliver, deftly accompanied by a Doors-like west coast organ sound. At one point during the number, Hamish seems to be looking afar past the audience, as if having spotted something in the distance, which adds further to the otherworldly atmosphere of the song.
Bridget St. John, one of the absolute stand-out tracks on the Angel Numbers album, is prefaced by a big thank you to the Glasgow audience for coming out this evening. Against a strong bass-led groove rhythm, Hamish’s voice inhabits all the spaces left by the band’s sympathetic musical backdrop. The words, so evocative of place and a sense of longing, tumble from the stage, as snapshots of Berlin, Lansing, London, Dresden, and Austin, are left to hang in the air.
On Rest & Veneers, Hamish and the band are joined onstage by Lizzie Reid, as this authentic country and western duet is beautifully recreated on stage. Angel Numbers, the new album’s title track, is offered in a storming version that has the Glasgow audience dancing. This is a song of resistance, sung with real passion, and propelled by a psychedelic rock backing. Hamish crouches and then uncoils on stage, with his voice ranging through quieter to more explosive moments. This live version demonstrates the way these great songs are both infectious and danceable, while simultaneously offering lyrical and musical sophistication.
Grey Seals, the song that closes the new album, has resonances of the storytelling quality aligned with classic 1960’s jangly guitar figures, that The Smiths were so adept at providing. Hamish, of course adds to the mix, his own unique interpretive voice, that live can suddenly push the intensity of the song.
A tender articulation of growing up in a setting of intersecting cul-de-sacs, in the song Catherine Opens A Window, from the 2018 album From Zero To One, is just voice and acoustic guitar. A quietness falls over the Glasgow audience, allowing every word to literally float out from stage.
Calls To Tiree, Hamish refers to affectionately as a “Golden oldie.” The band take the song to another level, with Andrew Pearson’s shredding guitar solo against a Hammond organ-like backing, creating a wailing whirlwind of sound. Hamish is a commanding presence on stage, sometimes prowling, sometimes with movements that remind of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, and always making eye contact with the audience. At the conclusion of Calls To Tiree, sound person Brian Jones is thanked for the great sound. It is indeed a well-mixed live sound, that perfectly balances clarity around Hamish’s voice with the exciting dynamics of the band.
You Can Film Me is a new song, Hamish and the band have been trying out on the tour. It has an aggressive punky edge, with some Gang Of Four-like guitar shapes. The orchestral keyboards also add a nice wide soundstage to the song. At one point, Hamish sings “But of course you can film me,” which is superbly conveyed with a world-weary irony. Money, which follows, is an infectious pop song, in the classic tradition, with the lyric and chorus conveying a mordacious attitude to the subject matter.
Just before the final couple of songs in the set, the house lights come on, evidencing the very enthusiastic audience response to a great set. Hamish tells everyone that he and the band have been on tour for a couple weeks and that it is good to be back in the west, adding that they won’t saunter off the stage in glory only to then return to sneak some songs in to finish, but rather “….will give you it all immediately.”
Indeed, we are treated to a final sequence of songs, that provide an epic conclusion to the evening. First, it is the magnificent The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973, with some of the best opening lines to a contemporary song:
To write a cathedral, I’ll need a ball-point pen
It’ll sound like “Common People” sung by Christopher Wren
On an upright piano with nice, narrow keys
In a Glaswegian chapel or a Parisian library
The audience of course applaud the Glasgow reference. Live this song is a quite perfect combination of evocative words and anthemic music. It raises the best applause of the night, and Hamish and the band exchange smiles.
Thank You For Sending Me An Angel is a high adrenaline and raucous Talking Heads cover. The final song, Caterpillar, is the first song I heard from the Heavy Elevator album, and is a post-punk signature live favourite. It has one of those bass lines that keeps going around in your head, and Hamish declaims every word with everything he can muster, literally throwing himself around the stage, as the band utterly shred the song.
The Glasgow audience raise the roof. Hamish Hawk both live and on record is a phenomenon, with a serious lyrical and musical talent, that can take him and the great musicians he has surrounded himself with, anywhere they want to go. An amazing night in Glasgow.
You can find more Hamish Hawk tour dates here.
Photography by Gareth Allen.
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Categories: Live Reviews
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