Gig Review and Photos by Michael Sibbons

Tom Hickox

With the weather feeling like the Spring was turning back into Autumn I took the train into London for the sell out launch of Tom Hickox’s new album; Monsters In The Deep.

For those unacquainted with Tom Hickox’s profoundly deep voice, he’s a singer-songwriter from North London who’s debut album; War, Peace & Diplomacy was released in 2014 Tom has been described by The Daily Telegraph as “The most powerful and original lyrical songwriter this country has produced in years”.

Tom HickoxTom Hickox

Playing a set of 16 songs from both his albums as well as a tribute to Leonard Cohen, the venue was sold out; shoulder to shoulder from front to back with no chance of getting to the bar. I would have loved a (security) pit, not because of it being a rough gig, it was the total opposite, but when you’re trying to photograph it makes it a bit difficult, so I found my spot at the front and hunkered down. I expect in the future Tom will be asked to play bigger venues with these features but it’s definitely a positive to go to gigs of this size.

I’ll be honest, this guy can sing, he can song write and more importantly he has stage presence and can entertain an audience. He was on stage for over an hour singing, playing the piano and telling us some fantastic stories about the origins of some of his songs.

Tom Hickox

On his first speech to the audience, Tom exclaims “I’ve got a new album out and it’s very exciting. But it’s not my album anymore, it’s yours”, (the audience).

Playing with a four piece band of ‘geniuses’ Tom in turn introduced them; they’re from all over the country from Cambridge and Huddersfield to Sheffield ,where a cheer could be heard from the crowd over the mention of Yorkshire.

For his third song, ‘Korean Girl in a Waiting Room’ he brought out the fifth member, a trumpeter who turns out was playing without amplification. The band and audience discovered this with much amusement after Tom had switched instruments to where the trumpeter had previously been playing and no-one could hear him. The poor sound engineer had to then rush through the crowd to fix it (to a shout of ‘Come on Michael’ from the back), leaving Tom to improvise for a few minutes resulting in three cheers for Tim Dickinson, the support act.

Tom HickoxTom Hickox

I’ve mentioned the stories Tom tells – they’re Tom’s stories for him to tell but I feel I have to mention the story about the song ‘The Dubbing Artist’. For 25 years Romania was under control of a communist dictatorship. During this period most ‘Western’ items were banned, naturally leading to a black market. One man bootlegged 12 million Western films and had one woman, ‘Irina Margareta Nistor’ dubbed them all. It was said that this woman became the second most known person in Romania after Nicolae Ceaușescu, the leader of the country’s communist party. However what Irina did was highly illegal, she could have been executed for it, but no-one knew what she looked like, all they knew was her voice. All this is in the past now so doesn’t live in fear for her life. But somehow through various contacts Tom got invited to Irina’s 60th birthday party and along with one of his friends headed over to Romania to meet her. He also confirmed (via his friend) that Tinder is alive and well in Bucharest!

Tom HickoxTom Hickox

The last song before the encore was Tom’s first; ‘A Normal Boy’ and was about his experience being caught up in the 7th July attacks in London. This song obviously meant along to Tom and you could see the emotion in his eyes. He was perplexed about how someone could turn their back on their country before remarking it’s happening more and more and just hopes it ends soon. This was the nearest we got to politics all evening with earlier it being exclaimed ‘let’s not get into politics’, with the approaching election it was a welcome change!

Tom HickoxTom Hickox

For the encore Tom played two tracks, ‘Monsters In the Deep’, the title track of the new album but first an homage to Leonard Cohen playing ‘Chelsea Hotel’ solo without his band. He remarked that he was lucky to have seen Leonard play a couple of times previously, and the man had been a machine, playing for sets of three hours, but always ended with doffing his fedora to the audience, so likewise Tom doffed his metaphorical fedora to us.

Tom was supported by Tim Dickinson, who sadly played to an almost empty room compared to Tom as people were arriving (I expect this was due to doors being earlier than published). You can’t beat an acoustic set from a man and his guitar and it was a perfect warmup. Tim humorously exclaimed his album’s been out for ten years and copies could be bought by the door. On ending he playfully says ‘Tom Hickox is playing next’ resulting in a cheer from the growing audience, then stating he deserves a bigger cheer for remembering his name.

Tim DickinsonTim Dickinson

Like in my review from a previous gig here, I’d like to give another shout out to The Lexington and their very well stocked bar. It’s a shame even though I wasn’t driving that I could only have the one, I must make the effort next time in the area to come along and try it.

A couple of days before the gig I had the chance to sit down and listen to Tom’s new album, Monsters in the Deep. Although it’s not something I would have probably listened to normally I really enjoyed it. One thing’s immediately clear as soon as you start listening, before I was given the stories live, it’s about the singer his vocals and his lyrics, the stories behind them. Don’t just take my word for it though, it has received high praise from the likes of Mojo and Q and is available to listen to on Spotify and Soundcloud, I strongly suggest giving it a listen. My personal favourite tracks are ‘The Fanfare’, and because of the story behind it ‘The Dubbing Artist’.

Tom Hickox

A few other things I feel I should probably mention, on the way in the audience were presented with an ‘Order of Service’ proclaiming ‘Tonight’s show celebrates the release of Monsters in the Deep’. This small pamphlet contained a breakdown of the evenings setlist as well as a lyric from each of these songs, a really nice touch. I’ll keep mine with my copy of the album. Despite being in the dark the stage was pleasantly dressed with fresh flowers and what appeared to be a stuffed magpie in a cage, I feel a bit disappointed that this wasn’t brought up in any of the stories if I’m honest!

If you get the chance I once again urge you to give his album a listen and if he’s playing local to you, strongly suggest getting tickets before he sells out.

Setlist:
Man of Anatomy
White Roses Red
Korean Girl in a Waiting Room
The Angel of the North
The Pretty Pride of Russia
The Dubbing Artist
Mannequin Heart
Out of the Warzone
The Plough
The Fanfare
The Lisbon Maru
Istanbul
Let Me Be Your Lover
A Normal Boy
Chelsea Hotel
Monsters in the Deep

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