Show Review: Hawksley Workman @ Criminal Records

Hawksley Workman

In-Store Performance @ Criminal Records

Feb 5 2010

 
Some of the best concerts I’ve ever seen have been both impromptu and free.  There was AFI’s surprise show at the Reverb in 2006 and last summer’s two-hour Broken Social Scene show at the Harbourfront Center which featured not only Feist, but members of Metric and Stars as well.  Having just released his new album Meat on January 19th and in the process of releasing a digital album, Milk, Hawksley Workman is poised to promote these releases across Canada.  And now he has joined my best-of list by kicking off his tour with a free in-store performance at Toronto’s Criminal Records.
 
Hawksley opens his set with ‘Maniacs’, a catchy, yodeling song from 1999’s For Him and the Girls.  A few bars in, I am entranced.  Nothing about his sound suggests that he’s performing in the back of a narrow hallway of a record store.  Effortlessly, his voice fills the room, almost negating the need for a microphone.  A wide variety of admirers have come to see him tonight, including a tiny baby.  His devotees are the epitome of polite Canadians, sitting quietly (and mostly camera-less) in rows on the floor so that everyone can see and hear the performance.
 
While many artists approach these performances with no more than an acoustic guitar in hand, Hawksley has brought a four-piece band with him, complete with keys and a violin.  Rather than stripping down his complex songs to make them easier to perform live, he gives them a slight twist instead.  This is especially noticeable with ‘(The Happiest Day I Know is a) Tokyo Bicycle’, which he gives a snazzy bass groove.  He even performs the vocally difficult ‘We’ll Make Time (Even If There Ain’t No Time)’, despite admitting that his recent “band practice” has been more like “sitting around drinking beers”.
 
‘Maniacs’ is the only old song on the set list.  Out of nine songs, four are from Meat and four are from Milk– a digital album that is being released online, one single every week.  This includes ‘We Dance to Yesterday’, which he just shot a video for, and ‘Snow Angel’.  Currently unreleased singles ‘Suicidekick’ and ‘Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky’ also make it into the performance.
 
Obviously a very humble artist, Hawksley is flabbergasted at how many people have showed up to see him at 6pm on a Friday night.  “I’d be home on my couch, stealing my neighbour’s internet” he says, joking that these days people scream out their internet passwords during sex.  His nutty sense of humour also seeps through in ‘Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky’.  According to him, Warhol thought Wayne was “pretty fuckin’ sexy”. Despite coming off as a chatty, happy guy, it’s obvious he went through a dark period during the production of Meat.  He hints at this after performing ‘The Ground We Stand On’, but we’re assured that things are better now.
 
It’s impossible not to be drawn by Hawksley’s talent.  He exudes artistic confidence; it’s obvious that this is what he’s meant to do.  Many have told me that he is a genius artist who absolutely needs to be seen live.  Now that I’ve gotten a taste, I cannot wait to see Hawksley and crew return for a full show on April 24th at Massey Hall.
 
(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine-Mar 15 2010)

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About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on March 3, 2011, in Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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