Today, I was one of the lucky few who made it to the Hawksley Workman "Intimate & Interactive" at MusiquePlus. (I know, they have a French name but it escapes me. Sorry). I attended with trusted friend Dusk and we made it just as the crew member was announcing "three minutes until we're live" (trans. from French, of course). Hawksley made his way onto the stage decked out in a puffy retro pink shirt and green-black army pants. Dusk approved but shook her head in disdain when she saw his pointy strange boots. The old adage not to judge a book proved 100 percent true because Hawksley & his band put on one hell of a show.
He began with "We Still Need a Song", an ode to the healing power of music and it's influence on our lives. I think that Hawksley Workman is like a Van Morrison for our generation, one raised on the Ramones and U2 and The Clash. He is brash and a real showman, raising his arms like a preacher and opening his palms towards the ceiling. Hawksley's voice yelps, croons, sings, and sometimes leaps into a falsetto (not the irritating kind, the judiciously employed kind). He seemed confident in front of the crowd of 50 or so and his band was keeping pace quite well. His bass player sang on several songs including "Anger as Beauty" and "Smoke".(That may not be the right song title. Don't bother searching for this stuff on Kazaa...his record company put copy protection in the disks and all the songs have sections of backwards Hawksley intermittently ruining great songs).
The whole show focused on his new album, except for a momentary cover of the Police's "Roxanne" during the commercial break. He channelled Sting quite well and Dusk was most enthusiastic towards the performer. He was forced to cease by the MusiquePlus staff because we were going back to the show.
During the interview section of the hour-long show, they innundated him with a barrage of questions. Some of them were quite interesting, such as "Who is your favourite author?" He first said the Sears Catalogue but then mentioned Ernest Hemingway as one of his faves. He just returned from Paris so reading "A Moveable Feast" was interesting to him, "being a young artist reading about another young artist."
He excelled on "Anger as Beauty". I have the song locked in my consciousness like a mantra that never ceases, "Anger as Beauty, Anger as Beauty, Anger as beauty..." He was sweating under the bright lights but didn't hold back, belting his way through the set as if it was a stroll on a cool, windy day. One of the MusiquePlus hosts commented that the album had really touched him, and that it was a very good Autumn record. I think that after hearing this set, I must soundly agree.
He said the artist he was listening to the most was Jay-Z. He is really inspired by the language and lyrical skill Jay-Z brings to the table, and that is probably why he decided to put a singing/rapping female vocalist (the Beautiful Lady from Black Corners) on his track "Smoke". He also mentioned Daniel Lanois and a greatest hits compilation CD from the 1980's. When he's on tour, his time away from the clubs and the stage is usually "quiet time", but when he needs good music, it is a soothing voice that brings serenity (Ed. Note--sorry for that ultra-new-age-sounding line).
He wrote a book of poetry, "Hawksley Burns for Isadora" last year (?) and he was asked if he planned on continuing with his literary craft. He said if the inspiration came to him, he would definately put himself totally into writing again. He also joked that he might write a cookbook because he is an avid chef. It "brings him back down to the soil" after the revelry and "bad habits" of a tour. I think he mentioned that music is the best drug, but the only drug he seemed to be on during the show was Red Wine--a "Good French wine is a good French wine," he said.
Buried deep within the lyrics of "Smoke" is a line about "Cocaine in Montreal / then back up on the plane Baby" and this pleased the crowd to no end. His ode to hedonism was not only well written but performed with a great enthusiasm, and everyone could sense the tingle in the air we were breathing, in the sounds we were hearing, and Hawksley was loving the attention.
During most of the show, the crowd was mostly subdued. Aside from the "Smoke" song, they didn't really participate but they cheered very loudly for Mr. Workman in and out of every commercial break, cued by a MusiquePlus worker who did the countdown "And trois deux un on Roll!". Many of the folks in the crowd probably wanted to hear his older material, such as "Jealous of your Cigarette" or "Bullet Bouncing off my Helmet" from his first LP "For Him and the Girls". He kept to newer stuff and this was a slight misfortune but not the end of existence.
Hawksley Workman is from Toronto and after the show, I approached a lady who had been singing and rapping beside Hawksley during the song "Smoke". She told me that her band was called "Black Corner" and to check out their website. I've been unable to find the site as of Press Time but I shall continue & hopefully add it to this blah in the near future.
I told the young lady that because of their innate talent and great music, I have been forced to take back half of the bad things I've ever said about Toronto (only half, don't think I'm selling out!) :)
To sum up quite ungracefully, Hawksley Rocked and he is a World Class Musical Genius. I think that he'll circle the globe and spread his music like magic lessons everywhere. He is a poet, a musician, a producer, a writer, and something of an eccentric, with his constant fibbing and self-analysing. I can't wait to hear his album without the backwards-playing Hawksley voice!
Anyhow, I must be off to call my one and only, Kate, so fare thee well and may a blessing of luck be cast upon your house. Rock on, my peeps.