Hawksley shakes the walls of Holy Heart

Justin Brake
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Concert Review

Canadian singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman continued his cross-country tour with a visit to Holy Heart of Mary auditorium Tuesday.

Supporting the release of "Between The Beautifuls," his brand new and most mature work to date, it was unpredictable what kind of show he and his band would offer up. It turned out to be a rock 'n' roll, melodramatic, variety show of sorts.

Canadian singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman continued his cross-country tour with a visit to Holy Heart of Mary auditorium Tuesday.

Supporting the release of "Between The Beautifuls," his brand new and most mature work to date, it was unpredictable what kind of show he and his band would offer up. It turned out to be a rock 'n' roll, melodramatic, variety show of sorts.

To begin, the Ontario-based singer and his band came out boasting antennae with shiny stars. "We're in a school. It feels like we're at a Christmas concert," he quipped, before kicking off the show with "We Will Still Need A Song," from the 2003 hit album "Lover/Fighter."

For the first few numbers the band gathered around a toy drum set which Hawksley sat at, looking like a grown-up riding a Playskool tricycle.

"Safe and Sound" and "Don't Be Crushed" followed before the band resumed their regular positions and started into "All The Trees Are Hers," the first track off the new record and a potential future radio single.

"Trees" and other down-tempo tunes from "Between The Beautifuls," like "Oh You Delicate Heart" and "What Would You Say To Me, Lord?" lacked the over-production which makes the album versions of the songs so distinct from most of Hawksley's work.

Instead, it was the faster-paced material from the new album-like "I'm Alone Here" and "The City Is a Drag," which garnered the loudest cheers, as did the creatively re-worked versions of older successes such as "Smoke Baby," "Striptease," and "Jealous Of Your Cigarette," which all featured drawn-out intense jams and solos from various band members.

During "Piano Blink," the new record's first single, Hawksley's stage antics were rock star-like, but levelled out by his frequent between-song crowd banter which revealed a humbleness not common among musicians who have experienced the level of success he has.

At times, he stood on stage with the utmost confidence. At others, he addressed the audience with his hands in his pockets, timid like a student explaining to his teacher why his homework wasn't done.

The various facets of his image reflected Hawksley's seemingly present transition to a more adult contemporary musician.

Throughout the show he shared long stories of past lovers, his deceased grandmother's dirty mouth, and something about his neighbour who he somewhat considers a friend because they helped push him out of a snowbank. What he was talking about at times was questionable, but funny and effective all the same.

At about the half-way point of the show the band was joined on stage by three members of hey rosetta!, who took up arms - instruments, really - and played "Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off," a funny choice considering the band's recent collaboration with Hawksley on their forthcoming album, which resulted from their adoration of his music.

It was difficult to gauge just how many instruments Hawksley, and his bandmates for that matter, played throughout the show. The multi-talented multi-instrumentalist played guitar, banjo, keyboard, harmonica and shared drumming duties with bandmate Mr. Lonely (Wyatt Burton), to name just a few.

Goosebump-inducing vocal performances from keyboardist, and multi-instrumentalist, Ruth Cassie can't go unmentioned. Her backup vocals on several songs earned shout-outs from the crowd.

It was nice to see some seats full in the upper balcony of the auditorium, a sure sign that Hawksley's popularity in St. John's is healthy.

One thing's for sure, the high school venue might not be big enough next time around if word of mouth is as generous to Tuesday night's performance as it should be.

Geographic location: St. John's

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