If you’re in a crowd, can you still be alone?
For Nick Hodgson, the journey to here has probably been one in which he’s learned more about himself than in a decade as a member of the Kaiser Chiefs – insights about the responsibility of being yourself when others you deal with are hand-clasping fakes, or of the salutary blows the music industry’s post-money era can deal out, and its lack of respect for the past.
It’s a personal dilemma set out on tonight’s opener RSVP, an acidic stab at the world of the jobbing songwriter and its often brutally unrewarding experiences. Hodgson himself is looking chipper; this show represents the end of a brief tour to promote his debut album Tell Your Friends and on home ground he seems happy to be back from where he and his friends spring-boarded more than a decade ago to become almost household names.
Those days are gone of course but, judging by the crowd’s enthusiasm for the opening chords of Chief’s staple Oh My God, not forgotten. Luckily for them, Tell Your Friends is also a fine collection of songs in its own right, cannily presented and deftly made playable in an era when less is so frequently regarded as much, much more. This old material/new material thing still remains a question of balance, one struck neatly by the likes of Honest Face and Feel Better, each chips off an old creative block which the singer has confidently kept investing in.
Live, he fronts a quintet which generally beefs up Tell Your Friends more lightweight moments, although other than the odd guitar indulgence there aren’t many rock and roll touches; tonight could easily be branded normal music for normal people played by normal people, an oasis of uncool for sure, but at least a warm and appreciative one for a performer who at his edges you sense isn’t quite the finished article as a frontman.
There are other old songs – I Predict A Riot is unsurprisingly introduced as ‘a song for Leeds – but one of the evening’s best receptions is reserved for the unassuming ode to love Suitable, a moment in which the task of spanning from former career to present is one that seems now well underway. Such is the gradual build up of mutual adoration between stage and stalls that a rather abrupt, encore-less ending after a sparkling rendition of Tomorrow, I Love You seems very anti-climactic – Hodgson shrugging at the dismay explains a little sheepishly that he just doesn’t have any more songs to play.
So we ask again: can a person still be alone in a crowd? The answer is obviously yes, especially when the product is you and 2018’s lean back public are just a skip button away from judgement via ten precious seconds and no more of their compacted lives.
The pressure can reduce some people to rubble, but Nick Hodgson is proof there’s life in the old school yet.