Live Report: H. Hawkline / Alice Low – Omeara, London

The romantic overtones of beguiling poetry…

On Thursday, the enchanting echoes of wondrous Welsh entities graced all in attendance at South-East London venue OMEARA. Its hall, possessing the airs in part of a disused railway tunnel, in part a dilapidated theatre space sporting flaked paint on old, ornate facades, served as an aptly mercurial setting for the presence and penmanship of H. Hawkline, and support Alice Low. A showcase of the former’s latest album ‘Milk For Flowers’, the night that was to wholeheartedly champion romantic overtones and beguiling poetry from both performing parties.

Stood solo in a silken black dress paired with hastily applied lipstick, Alice Low’s dulcet tones set the night in hazy motion, hallmarking her performance with gestural grandeur and posturing prowess. Having previously seen Low’s material in glorious full band ‘rock show’ contexts, it was wonderful to witness a more stripped back, piano-led arrangement (recorded live a week or so prior), dressing songs like the expertly self-aware ‘Show Business’ and raunchy ballad ‘The Rabbit’ with a heightened emotive intensity; softening her delightfully wicked wit with a genuine sense of intimacy.

Low’s music situates itself somewhere in between Bush and Bowie, though she effortlessly assumes the role of orator distinctly on her own term. Her set characterised by gripping theatricalities and persistent eyeballing, she captivated  and mesmerised the audience with every turn of phrase. The performance culminated in a new and allegedly “half-complete” number ‘Run Away From Love’. The title jokingly improvised on the spot, Low met its last chord with a graceful ballet pose, her tremendous wingspan taking the show’s finale to soaring flight.

Following the sparse setup of the first act, the stage slowly filled as H. Hawkline (Huw Evans) and his highly adept backing band sauntered forth. The artist’s latest and perhaps most honest album to date ‘Milk For Flowers’ was to dominate the bulk of the proceedings, the band launching straight into the punchy, Todd Rundgren-esque title track; an aptly defiant yet deceptively introspective opener, and initial lyrical nod to the record’s themes of bewilderment and grief.

Staying true to the album, the sonic palette across the entire performance possessed a warmth and depth of colour. The intermittent saxwork (reminiscent in tone of long term collaborator and album’s producer Cate Le Bon) and dreamy interplay between pedal steel and piano each respectively gifted Evan’s charming songcraft a rich, distinctive harmony – faithfully realised on songs like ‘I Need Him’, a soft spoken country ballad with a breezy gallop, and the whimsically woven ‘Suppression Street’.

H. Hawkline’s way with words, and the artful ease with which he delivered his lyrics to the crowd, is perhaps the element that shone brightest throughout his set. Introduced by the artist as “a song about if you could have a say in how you died”, ‘Mostly’ was a certain example of this, ruminating on the existential with a satisfying optimism, as was the expertly penned ‘It’s a Living’, which according to Evans “Started off as a Jeff Lynne-produced George Harrison song, then Cate Le Bon got her hands on it…” 

The album’s playthrough met its conclusion with the poignant, waltzing melancholia of ‘Empty Room’, but H. Hawkline closed the full set with some stellar pop psychedelia from his repertoire. An epilogue featuring the jumped-up, urgent indie disco of ‘Engineers’, and the infectious sentiments of ‘Means That Much’, the crowd were provided further proof, if it was needed, of the artist’s exemplary wordplay. The night’s parting poetry imprinting a sincere resonance, the tattered OMEARA tunnel is eventually left an empty room.

Words: Kieran Macdonald-Brown
Photography: Rachel Lipsitz

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