Aldous Harding, H Hawkline @ Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide 18/10/2022

H. Hawkline (Huw Evans to his mother) commences proceedings by introducing his “band”, a Reel to Reel tape recorder on stage beside him. It is the beginning of an amusing anecdotal preamble and start to his set that comes across almost like a comedy skit. He likes to get all the talking out of the way before the reel-to-reel starts as he does not stop the tape while performing. He has already won over the audience before the first song and they remain respectful and attentive during his performance. His set was delightful and quirky and the turning of the tape reels was a hypnotic welcome visual distraction. The set ends with Huw laying his guitar down and standing up and kicking off his shoes for some groovy karaoke during which he sings, “I don’t want to be the last thing on your mind” which is most appropriate given his support slot tonight. Apart from this last song and the second song which was Means That Much the rest of the set was new songs from Huw. I look forward to hearing the other songs being released one day. He returns later, playing bass, banjo and guitar in Aldous Harding’s band.

In a set that includes the latest album Warm Chris in its entirety, the start of Aldous Harding’s set is the start of the album, Ennui opens the set with Aldous Harding (Hannah Topp) sounding like Jane Birkin before changing tack with Tick Tock and then Fever during which Aldous carefully wanders front of stage, silently observing the audience during an instrumental passage. With little acknowledgement of the audience, she sits down to finger-pick an acoustic guitar like a folksinger on Treasure. Aldous is a like human jukebox, changing vocal styles with every song – given a blind test you would not be able to say for sure if this was the same person. She sounds timeless, her idiosyncratic vocal delivery containing echoes of Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom and Karen Dalton. Visually she is something completely different, both steadfast and fragile, her demeanour is at times disconcerting, and her facial grimacing is kabuki-like, heightening the emotional aspects of the songs but this distances her from the audience. Following Fixture Picture and including some tambourine soloing, she bizarrely addresses the audience, “Never mind me. You seem nervous”. The musicianship of her band is of a high standard with members regularly switching instruments and places on stage during the set.

Warm Chris is an almost acoustic interlude before the leisurely Staring at the Henry Moore transcends the awkwardness of Aldous’s stage presence. There’s the pounding introspection of Old Peel during which an animated Aldous channels Patti Smith before the audience responds in kind and Aldous seems to almost not know how to react to the applause. There’s a belated, “thank you”, leading into the last song of the set, Leathery Whip. When the band return to encore, starting with Designer and finishing with H Hawkline playing Appalachian folk banjo on the final superb song She’ll be coming round the mountain. With a standing ovation at the end of the main set and the encore Aldous looked quite moved by the reaction. She has toured each of her four albums in Adelaide gradually playing in larger venues starting with the Wheatsheaf, then Laneway and Womadelaide previously and I look forward to what this individual talent creates for us in the future.

Live Review By Richard De Pizzol

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