Review by Benjamin Essoo with Photography by Jeremy Carron

Just mere months ago we were at the smaller Village Underground in Shoreditch. It’s been precisely 5 months and 15 days and the crowds now wind their way around the entirety of the venue, waiting for doors at the sold out Camden KOKO, such is their ever-growing popularity.

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There is a bustle as you enter the venue, with a plethora of zany outfits, neon colours and out-there haircuts moving through the corridors. Into the main area and, funnily, the various ages are clearly distinct from each other, with the younger, more vibrant out on the floor and the higher you got through the various tiers, the older people seemed to get, purely coincidentally, of course, or maybe not? This is the ‘Bring Your Mom’ Tour, after all.

For those who were going into this blind, the aforementioned outfits, out-there haircuts and bright neon made perfect sense once support act Oliver Tree started.

The guitarist and drummer come out in Tree’s trademark bright pink and purple windbreaker and retro patterned trousers, playing the intro to Getter’s ‘Forget It’ before Tree himself, a professional scooter rider, arrives wearing the biggest pair of flares you’ve ever seen and on his red-handled scooter. He does a lap of the stage and discards it before hopping up to the mic to provide the opening vocals.

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Tree is boundless, using the entirety of the stage, bouncing off the walls, jumping, dancing, the lot. At one point he reaches into the zip pocket on the front of his jeans and pulls out a bird. Not a real one, but one he’s made with his hands. It doesn’t make sense but then at the same time it does because it’s Tree.

All of this and we haven’t even got to the end of the first song. It’s a strong opener and ends with a long, crouching dab. Tree composes himself and states “This goes out to all the alien boys and alien girls” before going straight into fan favourite ‘Alien Boy’, which has the floor singing along to every word.

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Tree’s set is surreal and feels like constant streaming energy with little break and a whole lot of movement, his trademark bowl-cut ever flapping. He rifles through ‘Upside Down’, where he’s now using his attire as props. The windbreaker comes off and he swings it through the air and finishes the song by taking off the flares and uses them as a scarf before then finding a safari hat to perform another favourite in ‘All That’, which sounds almost Beastie Boys-esque.

It can be said that Tree’s music transcends various genres yet his songs all have his unique sound, too. He performs ‘Hurt’, ‘All I Got’ and ‘When I’m Down’, all of which go down a treat.

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His fans adore his music, they sing along, they bounce, they sway, they, to the amazement of Oliver Tree himself, mosh as well. He is definitely one to watch and is unashamedly himself. Whether that be with his look, his choice in clothes, the way he dances, it’s all him. He doesn’t try to be something he isn’t and it shows, and that statement makes the perfect bridge as we approach the unique Hobo Johnson.

Sporting a different look to last August, Frank has shaved off his curls and is now sporting a short and more uniformed look, something he comments on, recalling his last visit. The setlist, this time, is different, with a load of new material. It’s no cut and paste job by any means, although there are similarities too.

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It’s a humble setting, no expansive props or stage design, per se, just the band and their instruments, which you could say is what they’re about. There’s no gimmick, they’re stripped back and honest.

Frank kicks off with a kicking rendition of ‘Romeo + Juliet’. It’s amazing to hear the crowd in full voice when the music cuts for the spoken ending of the song and the rapturous applause it receives.

The audience are on form and one could say an added member of the band as they match Frank, word for word as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is followed by ‘Sex in the City’ and ‘Father’.

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You can see a visible difference in confidence between August and now, with Frank looking a lot more comfortable and confident, performing with consummate ease without losing his charm and that which endears him to the fans.

Now, onto the new stuff. Frank takes a moment to address the room, saying that the next song is about being socially awkward and not knowing how to dance, before picking up a guitar and belting out ‘You Really Love to Dance’, a song with a different tone to your typical Hobo Johnson as it’s a little heavier and a little rockier.

Following on is ‘Cockroach’, a story depicting the world and how history has a habit of repeating itself, ‘Happiness’, a song about regret and finding happiness and then ‘I Want A Dog’, about future dreams.

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Each new song is vastly different in style from the last, showing a certain versatility and range and gives a taste of the new, upcoming album. The band are brilliant, talented and charismatic, dropping in and out as necessary and interchanging seamlessly.

Snap back to familiarity with ‘Mom + Dad’ and ‘Creve’ before a surprise in ‘Shoot Me’, where Frank’s voice is transformed using a vocoder, which accentuates the feeling of sadness, which continues into ‘Alone Forever’ before picking the mood right up with ‘the best song of 2004’ in ‘Since U Been Gone’, followed by ‘Peach Scone’, which ended the set and literally raised the roof.

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As soon as the band had departed, chants of “one more song!” rang out, bringing about an encore from so far out of the blue. Re-visiting 2004, the instantly recognisable piano started playing and the crowd were treated to a Hobo Johnson cover of Alicia Keys’ ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ to end the night.

Frank’s delivery is very, Frank. No matter how long he’s been touring or how many times he will have performed his songs, the raw emotion is still there. The screaming, the trembling, the pained expressions. His songs are so on-topic and touch on themes which many steer clear of. They have meaning and a relatability to so many.

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Setlist:

Romeo + Juliet
Sex in the City
Father
You Really Love to Dance
Cockroach
Happiness
I Want a Dog
Mom + Dad
Creve Coeur
Shoot Me
Alone Forever
Since U Been Gone
Peach Scone
If I Ain’t Got You

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