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London Calling
h Natural at the 100 Club, 31.01.2016

Metallica, The Stones, Paul McCartney, BB King and The Who are just some of the many acts who have graced the stage at London’s iconic 100 Club since it was opened in the 1940’s. And tonight, another name was added to that prestigious list… Hogarth. h is no stranger to London’s most intimate music venue of course, having performed here twice in recent years. Tonight’s show was billed as a chance to welcome in the New Year ‘fashionably late’, with the audience invited to bring a shot glass to partake in a sneaky tequila or two (something that has become a new tradition at a h natural show)

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The 100 Club, as the name suggests, is located in the basement of 100 Oxford Street. Originally called the Feldman Swing Club, it was felt its underground location would provide protection to music lovers during the war. As the h faithful gathered themselves in the cosy surroundings of this 350 capacity venue we felt like the Pevensie children emerging from the wardrobe into the sparkly snow covered world of Narnia, for there on the stage, standing proudly next to h’s piano was the most splendidly bedraggled Christmas tree you could possibly imagine. h had rescued it from his garden but was worried its handful of baubles was a bit over the top. Mr Tumnus would have given him an ‘A’ for effort, I’m sure.

From the outset we knew we were in for a great evening. h opened his set with a powerful version of ‘Heroes’, made all the more poignant following the recent, and shocking passing of David Bowie. Perhaps as another salute to Bowie, h flowed straight into ‘You’re Gone’. With only a piano for accompaniment and sounding like a blackbird in full swing, h’s voice blended effortlessly between tones and melodies. After searching for his set list, we were then treated to the ‘toe tapping’ opening bars of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ – I’m sure we weren’t the only ones singing the backing vocals at the appropriate moments! ‘I heard it through the grapevine, not much longer would you be mine…’

During a brief interlude, h thanked everyone for turning up (especially on a Sunday evening… after Christmas… and at the last minute) and promised he would change his set up a bit following his seven sell out shows prior to the festive season, telling the audience “I’d rather make a hash of new songs than sing the old stuff I make a hash of anyway”.

After the greetings, we were treated to the beautifully melancholic ‘Hurt’, a song originally by Nine Inch Nails, but perhaps best known as one of the last songs Johnny Cash released before his death in 2003. (If you are unaware of Cash’s version, or indeed the NIN original, I highly recommend you take a listen). This was followed by ‘Real Tears For Sale’, which served as a convenient tie-in opportunity for h to try and flog the remaining signed copies of volume two of his diary to us. Or as he described it during the brief hard sell, “a remarkable insight to how bizarre and dull” his life is! As he tried to find the right chord for his next song, ‘Beyond You’, h pointed out the pressures of having Mark Kelly in the audience. As he pressed the keys in turn h hissed “bastard…it’s not as if this isn’t hard enough already!” Cue laughter all round... there’s nothing like having colleagues show their support!

The call of “any requests?” comes from the stage and immediately people call out suggestions, ‘Genie’, ‘Grendel’, ‘Pour My Love’, ‘Beautiful’ and, perhaps inevitably following the news of veteran broadcaster Terry Wogan’s death that day, ‘The Floral Dance’, to which h replied “Did somebody say Donald Duck?!” h opted for ‘Nothing to Declare’ from his Ice Cream Genius days instead.

The next song was introduced as something h had been meaning to sing for years, but he hadn’t got round to it because it’s got ‘a lot of words and chords’ and if he got it right, he would have ‘entertained himself immensely’. This song turned out to be ‘Roads to Moscow’ by Al Stewart, which tells the story of the German invasion of Russia during World War II. It’s a song I hadn’t heard before, but it definitely deserves a second listen. The next song however, I did know. Peter Gabriel’s ‘Here Comes The Flood’, a song which is home to one of my all time favourite lyrics, ‘stranded starfish have no place to hide…’ This flowed into ‘Fantastic Place’, after which h, like the landlord from your favourite local, calls out “Did anyone bring a shot glass? If anyone fancies a shot of tequila I have a large bottle here!”. The drinks flowed and so did the music. Calling ‘time’ at Hogarth’s bar, our favourite barman began singing ‘The Hollow Man’, which was followed by the very addictive robotic sounding ‘Cage’.

With such a vast back catalogue at your fingertips, it must be a daunting task deciding what to sing each show. h plumped for a duo of Marillion songs, ‘House’ and ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’ for our entertainment. With his voice still in fine swing, maybe it doesn’t hurt to oil the vocal chords with a sneaky tequila – a thought that would perhaps give singing coaches around the world nightmares.

It was at this point of the evening someone in the audience shouted out a request for ‘Montreal’. Declaring his love for the city h hummed his way through the melody whilst trying to figure out if he could remember the tune. Sadly Mark ignored his request to join him on stage, so he went straight into Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ instead. Another classic that perhaps doesn’t get enough air play.

As promised earlier on in the proceedings, h picked up his diary and began to read an excerpt (Sunday 4th September 2005 in San Diego) This was a rip-roaring tale of a trip to San Diego featuring; a day at the beach and the races, with false promises of a seat in the best box in the grandstand (at which point h impersonated an American lady called Michelle by putting on a ladies accent RuPaul would be proud of!... ‘Find box 9E and speak to Ge-orge, tell him Michelle sayze it’s oh-kay’…), hitching a lift with a couple and a mouse obsessed baby, and if that wasn’t enough, golden slumbers and subliminal messages of alien abductions were overshadowed by the inhabitants of the hotel room next door re-enacting ‘the gimp scene’ from Pulp Fiction which led to a very swift room change! (This tale and many more can be found in h’s ‘The Invisible Man’ diaries, volumes I & II)

Ribs suitably tickled h led an impromptu sing along to the Stones ‘Ruby Tuesday’, which was then followed by another shout out of requests ‘The Space’, ‘Dinosaur Thing’, ‘Life on Mars’, and another plea for ‘Montreal’! h decided to finish his set with ‘Beautiful’ and ‘The Sky Above The Rain’.

After two hours of music, drinks and laughter h treated us to a much applauded and cheered for encore, starting with ‘Dry Land’. This was followed by ‘War Baby’, a song originally by Big Wreck. Like ‘Roads to Moscow’, I had never heard this song before either, it’s always nice to be introduced to something new. With time running out h was starting to wrap up the evening’s entertainment. We were left with ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ and, with one last nod to Ziggy Stardust himself, ‘Life on Mars’. Walking back to the car we still had the lyrics ‘Wonder if he’ll ever know, he’s in the best selling show…’ resonating in our ears. After a string of sell out ‘h natural’ shows to his name, it seemed an appropriate lyric to go home with.

Until next time Naturalists!

Words by Lucy Jones | Photos by Alan Jones

Click here to view the pdf of Jennifer's lovely layout of this review.



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