HAWKSLEY WORKMAN & THE WOLVES at the Phoenix, May 3. Tickets: $15. Attendance: 1,100 (sold out). Rating: NN
maybe it was the size of the room, or the fact that there was a sold-out crowd there to see him, but Hawksley Workman looked lost on the Phoenix stage Thursday.
This should have been the crowning moment of the singer/songwriter's year thus far. Toronto boy releases an excellent and unusual debut, gets the nod across the pond, comes home to plenty of praise and a follow-up and then plays his triumphant local show. Instead, the usually unflappable Workman seemed unsure of how far to take the routine and simply turned up the volume to compensate for the lack of anything genuine.
In reality, the loud intensity of Workman and his Wolves band should have suited the more bombastic rock edge of (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves, but instead it came off mawkish and overbearing. Everyone sounded like they were trying to drown each other out -- Workman included, as he shouted his way through the songs, foot up on the monitor and wringing the life out of every subtle lyrical inflection.
Admittedly, with a red zebra-striped jacket on and his arms in the air, Workman actually makes a pretty convincing rock star. When you can write delicate and beautiful songs like No Beginning No End and Beautiful And Natural and silence a room with a single guitar and two broom handles, though, why bother?