Nick Hodgson at Brudenell Social Club

On the stage of the Brudenell stands Nick Hodgson, looking svelte and sophisticated, much like that annoying friend of yours who never has a single hair out of place while your barnet stubbornly tries to fight its way off your head. We’re used to seeing the ex-Kaiser Chief poking out from behind the drum kit but now he’s got a guitar in his hands and it seems he knows what to do with it. Mr Hodgson has a new album Tell Your Friends out in January and tonight is his first ever, super-premiere, debut, you-ain’t never-heard-this-shit-before gig. Also, his new band seems to include a very calm Joshua Homme on drums.

He’s a more punctual man than I and has arrived on stage before I could make it inside the venue after I was led astray by the gremlins inside the google maps algorithm. Luckily I only missed half a tune. A ‘-ne’ if you will.

As it’s a new band and a new album, it’s new material that we’re treated to, with RSVP coming near the start and Honest Face being dedicated to Hodgson’s mother. The collective are all hearing this stuff for the first time and with that in mind it all gets a warm response. He hasn’t gone mad since leaving his last band. He hasn’t ballsed it all up. This is a good thing.

I’m no good with faces but it took me until the first chorus of a super-mellow Oh My God to realise just who it was on stage. Hodgson excuses himself: “I’m allowed to do that song as I was in that band”. He comes across as a really sound dude, reserved and quick with a one-liner for any heckle that comes his way.

“Play some guitar!!” someone shouts.

“I only learnt to tune the thing yesterday” comes his reply.

Now that’s not true is it, but there are a lot of pleasing chord sequences and melodies on show here. The rumour round the chicken house is that Hodgson’s musical direction is now vaguely pointing towards ‘feel-good music’. Make sure you read that as ‘feel-good music’ though and not ‘mawkish sentimentality’, cos it ain’t like that, pardner. Mercifully absent are the (urgh) classic Kaiser shouty build up bits*, and ushered-in are the acoustic guitars, tasteful keyboard parts and three and occasionally four-part harmonies.

There’s a lot of dreaminess in these new songs, a lot of calm and a lot of space. Some tunes recall the more ballady side of Britpop and others sound like Belle & Sebastian having been lifting weights. More than once I was reminded of Yeti and boldly raised an eyebrow and stroked my chinny chin chin, but thankfully no-one was watching.

“I was sitting in my kitchen six weeks ago and I got a text from Ryan [Jarman] asking me if I wanted to do this gig” says Hodgson. “I said ‘yes’, although I didn’t have a band at the time”. I have to say the band have done a great job considering they are mere babbies. I really enjoyed the soupy, underwater sounds of the lead guitar and the textures offered up by the keyboard player. It will be interesting to hear the sound of the album itself. New single Suitable is trotted out for our judgement toward the end of the night, and my verdict is that it grooves better live than on the released version. Final tune Tomorrow I Love You is the real stand-out of the night though and the obvious choice for a second single: it’s got a great chorus that just oozes sunshine.

The band look chuffed with themselves and well they should: all in all it’s a solid debut performance. If you wanna see Nick Hodgson there’s an album launch party at Headrow House on 29th January, so go ahead and Tell Your Friends already.

*You know the one. It was in all their singles. It was all over your radio back in the noughties. Just picture Ricky Wilson’s gurning chops: “ooooh…..oooooooooh!….ooooOOOOHH!!…..OOOOOOOHHHHH!!…YAAAARRRGHHGH!!!!”

Jim writes for Leeds Living on contemporary music, bringing gigs alive for readers who couldn’t be there.

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