A Will Hoge Masterclass
I really do wonder how Will Hoge was off my radar for such a long time, as I pride myself on keeping up with a great number of artists who are virtually unknown this side of the “pond.” And I regularly buy albums by American artists who have almost no profile over here. Not only had I not heard any of his music (except the couple of songs that had been recorded by Lady Antebellum and Eli Young Band), I had never heard of Will Hoge. So what a pleasure to discover him via some random website referral, and to catch up with six of his albums in the space of a couple of weeks!
And a happy coincidence that he was touring the UK, where I saw him at Cambridge last night, with his touring band. This in itself is unusual because most “lesser known” US singer-songwriters come over and play solo acoustic gigs or at best accompanied by a bass player or electric rhythm guitarist. So, in a small pub in one of England’s two major university towns, we got treated to the full Will Hoge experience.
He really is a major talent. Kicking off with a solo acoustic Silver or Gold and then into Goodnight/Goodbye (one of my favourite of his songs) with the band, we got over 100 minutes, and getting on for thirty songs from his back catalogue, without a break. And the great thing about him is the consistency of his songwriting and the quality of his tunes. With many artists, some among thirty songs might be of a lower standard. Not with Will Hoge. Switching between heavier rock songs in Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen vein to introspective acoustic songs of lost love and heartache a la Jackson Browne, he was accompanied by a very tight band that kept the interest levels high by not veering off into long rambling solos, and thereby keeping the songs to around three minutes max each.
Because of the consistently high standard throughout, highlights tended to be favourite songs. Aside from the afore-mentioned Goodnight/Goodbye, personal favourites were Hard to Love, Even if it breaks your Heart, Growing up around Here, Middle of America and Dirty Little War (written around the time of relationship breakups of him and his brother and his parents’ divorce). He also seemed to warm to his audience as the gig went on and there was some very funny patter between songs during the second half of the gig, as well as some anecdotes about how the songs came into existence.
A really, really good gig from an artist who now ranks very high on my list of favourites. I hope he comes back again.