Hawksley Workman W/ Joel Kroeker – MacEwan Ballroom (Calgary, AB) 04.08.04

Canadian performer Hawksley Workman has made quite a name for himself around the world for his live performances. Combining his three albums worth of material with an amazing stage prescence and his knack for on-the-fly inspired performances, Mr. Workman and his backing band, the Delicious Wolves, always bring something new and interesting to the table.

I ended up going to the first date of Hawksley’s Canadian tour, a show that was rescheduled due to Hawksley suffering some damage to his ears while on tour in France. While looking a little rough around the edges, Hawksley and his little crew still managed to put on quite the entertaining show.

The opening act was Vancouver musician Joel Kroeker. Kroeker was a good choice for opener, as his mid tempo rock/pop tunes fit nicely into the theme for the evening. Forthcoming single ‘Goodbye Jane’ turned a lot of heads during his set, as well as a reworked version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. While I liked the fact that he had enough taste to cover a Cohen tune, and yes, he did a good job of covering it, I have to ask myself why does every single ‘guy with a guitar’ have to feel the need to cover that tune? I blame Jeff Buckley for starting the trend, and I’d rather see it end. Cohen has a wonderful discography out there for people to discover, although you wouldn’t know it from the artists who pay tribute to him.

I also was able to chat with Kroeker a bit after his set, as he was working the merch booth, doing autographs for people who bought his CD. Very nice guy, all in all, and should hopefully be making his way through Calgary again in the future.

Speaking of the merchandise booth, it should be noted that for people who are planning on attending this show in the future, Hawksley’s portion of the merch booth will be selling a tour-only CD entitled, Before We Were Security Guards, which features early, early Hawksley Workman material. It’s a ten track CD, and features 3 songs that some of the more devout Hawksley fanatics out there may already have (‘Watching The Fires’, ‘What Could I Tell You?’, ‘Your Naked Body On The Beach’), but is absolutely worth it if you’re a fan of his music. I must repeat, that this CD is only available while Hawksley’s on tour, so if you’re attending a show of his, save up your shackles!

As for Hawksley’s performance itself? It was very nice balance of old and new material, with a whole slew of surprises and gems thrown in. Christmas tune ‘Claire Fontaine’, a song epousing the very expensive paper of the same name, served as a powerful segue for Hawksley’s most recent single, ‘We Will Still Need A Song’, and old favorites ‘Tarantulove’, ‘Baby This Night’, ‘No More Named Johnny’ and ‘Beautiful and Natural’ were all tunes performed from his debut album, For Him And The Girls. ‘Tarantulove’ got a sexed up, rocking interpretation done, making an already great tune even better, while ‘Baby This Night’ was an amazing choice for opener, as Hawksley got to showcase his amazing vocal range right off the bat, showing that he was in fine form, despite the aforementioned ear problems.

The highlight of the night, however, had to have been his 10 minute+ rendition of ‘Papershoes’, a song the declares that ‘dancing is about sexual confidence’, and a long running diatribe about how Hawksley wanted to lock up someone’s ‘bicycle’. It was part performance art, part stand up comedy and part music, but it was all Hawksley. This sort of inspired muddling around in the middle of a tune is what makes Hawksley special, as he tends to these sorts of weird jaunts in the middle of his shows. Unlike other artists, though, who do some sort of schtick throughout the duration of their tour through a particular area, Hawksley always brings something new to the table so that you can rest assured knowing that no two Hawksley shows will be alike.

There were some contrived bits to Hawksley’s set, though, but that doesn’t detract from either him or his show. His breakout hit, ‘Striptease’, a sexy as hell ‘come to my house so we can screw’ kind of tune, was accompanied by burlesque dancers who did one hell of a performance. A lesser artist would’ve been eclipsed by having 5 very attractive, very seductive women hogging up the stage, but Hawksley was able to eclipse them, incorporating them into his act and, if not completely overpowering them while onstage, at least balanced things out so that people were forced to pay attention to both Mr. Workman and the girls up on stage.

The show did falter at a couple of points, though, although you could chalk it up to not having been playing for an extended period of time. ‘Jealous Of Your Cigarette’ fell a little flat, with Hawksley faltering on the lyrics and the sound coming off a little wonky, while ‘Autumn’s Here’ had some soundboard problems. All in all, these sorts of things happen and Hawksley’s rustiness can be dismissed by virtue of the fact that he’ll be in fine form for the rest of his tour.