LIVE: Steve Hogarth (H Natural) – The 100 Club, London 31/01/2016
It was Christmas party time at London’s 100 Club on Oxford Street last night, despite the fact that it was the last night of January. But, reflecting on a month that has seen the falling of so many of rock and roll’s journeymen, it was as good an excuse as any for Christmas to start early (or late depending on your perspective). Our host is Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth, and Shaun Neary was there to catch the show.
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Shortly after Marillion finished touring the album Marbles back in 2005, Hogarth returned home to a letter from the Inland Revenue with a rather large tax bill attached, and at the suggestion of the bands manager, the ‘H Natural’ series of shows was born to help pay off the debt. Still taking place in between recording and touring with Marillion, although this time without such an unfortunate financial imperative, tonight’s H Natural show is a relatively stripped down affair of voice and piano, with crowd participation between songs, and readings from his tour diaries.
H shares a stage with a grand piano and a keyboard with an “overdressed” Christmas tree consisting of about five decorations sitting beside him. Immediately we are treated to a cover of Bowie’s Heroes and it is immediately felt by everyone in attendance, understandably given the impact his passing has had on so many people. You’re Gone brings everyone back to more familiar territory, as H notes that Marillion band mate Mark Kelly is also in the audience – “as if tonight wasn’t difficult enough as it is”, he quips.
Marvin Gaye and Nine Inch Nails get given the H treatment, with Hurt probably being the most unexpected, yet performed with conviction enough to proverbially grab you by the insides, and keep you paying attention until the end of the song. More Marillion is reworked in the guise of Real Tears For Sale, Beyond You and Memory Of Water, all of which go down well, indicating yet again that none of these shows are ever repeated. The addition of sequenced percussion during some songs takes a little away from the performance, but something like that is always down to personal preference, and not a show stopper by any means.
H sits back comfortably in his chair and unexpectedly announces that he is in possession of a rather large bottle of tequila. A Christmas party really wouldn’t be a party without free alcoholic beverages, and plastic shot glasses appear and the crowd lines up for a shot each. If we’re in a private hell tonight, then H is the devil, and he’s bartending with the cheekiest grin on his face. Make no mistake, our host is having as good as a time as his guests.
Some Al Stewart and Bob Dylan renditions, and we’re then treated to the inevitable diary reading. Sometimes this portion of the night can be hit and miss with audiences, but that isn’t a problem tonight. The crowd are respectful and attentive, and have no problem chiming in with witty banter, or singing along to his rendition of The Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday, or trying to request songs such as The Space, which H teases, but that’s as far as it goes.
With an encore of Dry Land and Afraid Of Sunlight, plus a rendition of Tom Robinson’s War Baby, and Bowie’s Life On Mars rounding off a whopping 2hrs and 15 minute set, it’s safe to say that the crowd got their £18 worth, and then some.
These shows are a special event, they’re rare as H bares his soul in a few ways, performing not only his own works, but also the songs that inspired him growing up, on top of sharing some of his life’s experience. This is a two hour insight into a career that spans decades. It’s not an event that happens often, and it’s definitely not one that should be passed up.
Photos & Review: Shaun Neary