Friday, 15 March 2013

Tom Hickox - Live At St Pancras Old Church March 7th 2013

Live review by

It's amazing how far you can walk in the wrong direction when looking for a church that has been there for a trillion years (or roughly, since 314AD), but that's how I began my journey to St. Pancras Old Church. Finally arriving at the church foyer, still managing to be slightly early (congratulations on postcards please), any sort of stress I was feeling instantly evaporated at the sight of the small, warm and welcoming decorative room ahead of me. A room full of flickering tealights and atmospheric, instrumental music that seemed to be anticipating Tom Hickox’s performance as much as the chattering audience relaxing on wooden chairs in the pew-less church hall, sipping from cans of beer or  plastic cups of wine whilst holding “order of service” hymn sheets, made especially for Tom’s set. Perhaps a slightly surreal image but a true one nonetheless!

An immediate hush spread across the cosy crowd as soon as Tom stepped onto the stage in his three-piece brown suit and yellow tie, taking his position at one of two electric pianos.  Precisely placed across the stage were his equally as smartly dressed accompaniments; Chris Hill on Bass, Brad Webb on Drums, Nicko Sabitini, (alternating between lap steal, slide guitar, Gibson, and Mandolin), and last but definitely not least Amy Stanford on Viola, presenting us with five very talented musicians who were clearly at ease with their instruments, each other, the high-ceilinged church hall and their intimate captivated audience.

Beginning the set with 'The Angel of The North', it’s instantly obvious why the Sunday Times described Tom arriving on the music scene “as if from a different planet, and certainly from a different age”. If looks were not enough, Tom sings and performs with an old fashioned, serious intensity that makes you wonder if he's done this before in a different lifetime, and Tom definitely wouldn't have been out of place amongst 60s and 70s legends Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Randy Newman, of whom he’s faced well deserving comparison to. Tom performs with a serious, macabre, slightly theatrical air about him (at parts during his set throwing his body  into his electric piano with such gusto it was wobbling about on its stand); a performance that is only intensified by the way his accompaniment are presented during the solo parts of his tracks. Minimalistic, and not moving an inch when they weren't playing their instruments in perfect harmony which, with all the airs and presentation of a strong sense of experience in classical performance, comes as a shock to know Tom is a self-taught musician.

The closing encore, a cover of Eels' 'Railroad Man', went down great with a crowd of people who remained thoroughly engaged throughout the entirety of his performance. Throughout the set Tom took the time to provide interesting narrative to the conception or misinterpretation of certain songs, and for someone who performs with such a serious persona, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that he has a sense of humour that had the whole room laughing from their stomachs. Definite crowd-pleasing moments of the night that particularly stood out are Tom explaining that his track 'The Lisbon Maru' was inspired by the real life sinking of a Japanese freighter of that name (which he' then humorously clarified is a song that is not called “a lesbian named Marie” like someone once thought). 'White Roses Red' was the winner though, a slightly more up-tempo number that had people nodding their heads along as if they were at a rock concert and went down as a favourite song of the night for everyone I spoke to after the show.

Tom Hickox is a pleasantly rare breed of artist in this current climate and a credit to the North London music scene. Having completely conquered the smaller stage like a true hero,  there’s no doubt about it that Tom is more than ready and deserving to reveal his talent to much wider audiences, and we at The Sound Of Confusion will be following every step of the way.

Tom Hickox's website

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