“Thank you for coming out on this wet Sunday night Manchester!” smiles H. Hawkline , referencing the abysmal autumn weather outside the basement. There’s always a lull in the air at the end of the weekend – particularly when its stormy – but Hawkline (aka Huw Evans) is ensuring that Soup Kitchen is tonight the place to be. June’s I Romanticize is undeniably one of 2017’s top albums, a unique collection of ten tracks that confirm that the Welsh star is only getting better and better with each release. But does it work live?
‘Engineers’ kicks it all off, a synth-happy bop that judders around with its mechanical riffs and automated sound. Hawkline’s guitar playing is exquisite, leaving nobody to doubt the experience that experience flows through him. While tonight’s set is a “50/50 split” between songs old and new, I Romanticize gets some much appreciated exposure; the lulling romance of ‘My Mine’ perfectly contrasts the infectious melody of ‘Love Matters’.
Reminiscent of Bowie in stature and grace, it’s clear that Hawkline is the star of the show. He chats with the crowd at ease, gliding around in a floor-length floral kimono that he later admits is a dressing gown. “I feel like an old lady” he laughs, “I don’t have my glasses either!”. ‘Spooky Dog’, a song title he admittedly regrets, is one of the highlights of the night that sees Hawkline’s hands effortlessly work their way around his guitar to produce surf-rock vibes. ‘Moons In My Mirror’ is another 2015 offering that remains one of the Welshman’s greatest, its stop-and-start riffs summoning mass audience movement. Hawkline’s band are equally as impressive – particularly the drummer, whose backing vocals are some of the most pitch-perfect Soup Kitchen has ever heard.
Two cover songs are the ultimate crowd-pleasers – the first Alessi Brothers‘ ‘Seabird’, “the best pop song ever written”. With its twinkling synth and harmonious vocals, it’s no surprise that one guy at the front starts dad-dancing his way around the room. As the set wraps up with supports Younghusband re-taking the stage for a Meic Stevens cover sung in Cymraeg, it’s clear that tonight, H. Hawkline has proved his live show is just as good, if not better, than his recorded material – and by bringing a little bit of Wales to Manchester, it’s very much appreciated.