Since releasing his debut record back in 2003, it’s safe to say Will Hoge has been one of the most prolific Americana artists around. His 11th album, My American Dream, came out in October, and he’s also been touring relentlessly for a decade, winning over fans both here and in the US. On his current trip to the UK he’s opening for Lucero on their nationwide tour, including a show last night at The Garage in London.
Carrying his acoustic guitar, Hoge walked on stage around 7.30 and launched into Still A Southern Man, from his current album. It’s a song full of conflicting emotions and I thought Hoge captured that brilliantly. The stripped-back nature of the performance brought his raw, impassioned vocals to the fore and made for a really powerful moment that grabbed the audience’s attention.
Throughout his set Hoge alternated between tracks from My American Dream and songs from his previous albums. The rocky, bittersweet Too Old To Die Young showed off his ability to create a character as well as his solid guitar-playing, whilst Little Bit Of Rust had a nostalgic, romantic feel and highlighted the rich tones in Hoge’s voice. Meanwhile, the subdued, downbeat Home Is Where The Heart Breaks was an absolute masterpiece of storytelling and packed full of details, as well as being incredibly moving.
For me some of the standout moments were when Hoge touched on political issues. After an introduction that referenced the Dixie Chicks’ infamous speech in London – and got a volley of applause from the crowd in response – he launched into the circus-themed Oh Mr Barnum. It’s one of my favourite tracks on My American Dream and Hoge managed to strike just the right balance of world-weariness and pleading with the lyrics and vocals. Later on, he spoke about the recent US elections before delivering the scathing Thoughts And Prayers, an attack on politicians’ platitudes in the wake of tragedies which drew out the growl in his voice.
Hoge finished his performance with Nikki’s A Republican Now, the closing track on his current album. It’s a fiery, driving number full of vivid imagery and Hoge was full of conviction as he performed the song, throwing his head back and getting lost in the music. I thought it was a great way to end the performance and get the audience’s energy up, and they rewarded him with an enormous cheer (after getting increasingly louder with every song).
Overall Will Hoge’s set was a great introduction to his sound, with a passionate performance that showed off his powerful vocals and songwriting talents. When I spoke to him recently he mentioned that if this tour goes well he’s planning to come back in February with his band. Based on the reaction from the audience last night, I think it’s safe to say those shows will be very popular – and I’d advise you to grab a ticket if you can, because it’s definitely worth it.
Set list: 1. Still A Southern Man 2. Too Old To Die Young 3. Oh Mr Barnum 4. Little Bit Of Rust 5. Thoughts And Prayers 6. Home Is Where The Heart Breaks 7. Nikki’s A Republican Now Performance date: 7th December 2018
Will Hoge’s latest album, My American Dream, is out now.
See Will on tour with Lucero this December:
8 December – Brighton, The Haunt
9 December – Bristol, Thekla