Hawksley Workman rolled through his self-proclaimed second home last week on his Winter Bird Tour, to celebrate his newest album Old Cheetah at the Commodore Ballroom. And when I realised I had never seen a "proper" Hawkley Workman show -- only as a part of a festival, or one third of Mounties -- I knew I couldn't miss it.
Unfortunately I did miss the two openers, The Passenger and Fiona Bevan, due to other commitments, getting to the venue just as Hawksley & co hit the stage. They started things off with "Tonight Romanticize the Automobile" from his Lover/Fighter album, and played a nearly two-hour set spanning his 16 year career. All the way back to his first album For Him and the Girls with "Bullets" and "Paper Shoes", up to his new album and songs like the ridiculously catchy "Don't Take Yourself Away (Instant Nostalgia)".
Other highlights included "Careful Not Beautiful" and the tour's namesake, the soaring "Winter Bird", and the few times throughout the night that Workman invited friends on stage. Both of his Mounties bandmates were out for a song each; Steve Bays for "Teenage Cats" and Ryan Dahle for "It's Really Starting to Snow", as well as his opener Fiona Bevan to provide backing vocals on "Old Bloody Orange".
And even thought the show was over an hour and a half, it flew by. Never a lull or a drag, the set had a great flow to it. There was a portion in the middle where songs segued into each other beautifully, and his amusing stream-of-consciousness storytelling between songs kept the crowd engaged. In fact, the crowd's energy went a long way to making the show special. Workman came across as genuinely humbled and honoured by the response he got, especially when people were singing along, and especially to the "weird stuff". A few times he even pointed directly at people, thanking them for singing along.
After wrapping up the main set with the somewhat heartbreaking "We're Not Broken Yet" from the new album, Hawksley returned to the stage with a couple friends out once more, Bays and Dahle, for a slowed down, chilled out version of Mounties' "Tokyo Summer". From there he ended the night with a couple older favourites, the crowd just taking over singing for "Safe and Sound" (and Hawksley letting them) and finally, the incendiary "Smoke Baby", leaving everyone breathless.
Tonight Romanticize the Automobile, Don't Take Yourself Away (Instant Nostalgia), Teenage Cats, Baby Mosquito, Ilfracomb, Bullets, Clever Not Beautiful, Dirty and True, Paper Shoes, Old Bloody Orange, When These Mountains Were the Seashore, General January, Song for Sarah Jane, All the Trees Are Hers, It's Really Starting to Snow, Make Up Your Mind Tonight, Winter bird, We're Not Broken Yet.
Tokyo Summer, Safe and Sound, Smoke Baby.