Charlie Hole at The Garage, London 1 March 2016

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We’ve talked a lot about Charlie Hole in recent weeks, and reviewed his EP, ‘Dirty Little Secret’. Last night we attended his album launch at The Garage, in London, and were just as impressed by Charlie’s live performance as with his studio recordings.

We arrived slightly ahead of the scheduled 9pm for Charlie’s show, and were treated to some of the performance of Gecko, a singer songwriter whose musical wizardry Charlie later said he was afraid might upstage his own show. Gecko’s music is very humorous, with lyrics fast paced and rhythmically challenging.

We caught three of his songs, the last two having the greatest impact on us. One was about the rise of technology, and how we now take photos with our ever present camera phones to show where we’ve been, only to realise later on our memory was not of the place we visited but of the camera phone itself, and that when the apocalypse happens we’ll take photos on our iPhone 5000s. Humorous, but biting.

The final song was a reggae number about the library, which again, was a humorous and witty social commentary on how we can go to the library and do all manner of things – but if we want a book – we have to go to a bookshop. Gecko employed some audience participation, which perhaps helped the subject of the song stick a bit more in our brains. Gecko is running a crowd funder to raise money to take his show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. Details of how you can help are on his Facebook page.

Just after 9, Charlie Hole took to the stage, and took out his guitar and started singing the beautiful, ‘Someone Else’s Dream’, which he’s recently recorded. This led onto ‘The Chapel Of Unrest’, from Charlie’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’ EP. He told the audience that he recorded this and thought it would be suitable for radio, but was told that it was too dark for radio play, as it’s a song about paedophilia in the Catholic Church. Regardless of this, like a lot of Charlie’s songs, it’s one based on issues that speak to him, and in this case, it was his reaction to things he’d heard. In Charlie’s own words, from his blog:

The Chapel of Unrest is a critique of the hypocrisy, hierarchy and abuse of power in The Catholic Church. The song covers my feelings on the Church ranging from blind belief and ignorance, as well as corrupt priests, the indoctrination of children, holy wars and the systematic abuse of children and the subsequent cover-ups.

After welcoming his friends, family and fans from Bournemouth, Charlie sang his third song, ‘Little Town’. His style suggests that he would be as comfortable playing for one person as for 150: the upstairs room at The Garage, in Highbury and Islington, was packed out. Charlie then led into a story about Sid Vicious, and how his mother inadvertently facilitated his death, by providing him with drugs to celebrate being acquitted for the murder of Nancy Spungen. Anne Beverley, Vicious’ mother, discovered upon her return to her home after his death, that she was no longer welcome. She took a unique approach at starting a new life, by sticking a pin in a random map of Britain. She came upon Derby, and so moved there. ‘The Ballad of Anne Beverley’ tells her story, of how she tried to reinvent her life, but all to no avail. Anne Beverley committed suicide in 1996. It’s a sad, very beautiful, but very poignant song.

In a complete about face, Charlie told us how his father asked him to sing at his Dad’s wedding. He wrote, ‘Find Someone Who Cares’, a tender song of love accompanied on his acoustic guitar. The audience stayed perfectly still, listening as one.

We spoke to some members of the audience, who asked how we’d describe Charlie’s style, was it rock, was it pop, was it folk? We suggested Americana, and seemingly as if to answer the question, Hole launched into a medley which included, ‘There Will Be No King’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’, and ‘Hit The Road Jack’. What style? All styles! Charlie Hole is not defined by genre!

Next up was ‘Boundaries’, which Charlie told us was a new song. He then sang, ‘The City’, written about his life in London, and how, wonderful it might be, sometimes London is a hard place to live in. Charlie announced that his final song would be, ‘The Final Straw’, which we initially thought was called, ‘The Final Song’. He said he would finish singing because he knew lots of people had trains to catch, and so walked off the stage. The audience wasn’t having that though, and started chanting as one, “One more song! One more song!” Charlie came back on to sing, ‘Unlit Flame’, from his ‘Dirty Little Secret’ EP. He said it was written while he was still at school, and how at about 15 or 16, he’d found himself invited to a cool party, and how, trying to impress the cool girl whose party it was, he stood with some 18 year old guys from Birmingham, “smoking”. Except, that after about 5 minutes, it was pointed out his cigarette was an unlit flame.

Of course, the song isn’t about that party, but again, in Charlie’s words,

Unlit Flame is a song about unrequited love, indecision and the fears that hold us back from falling in love. The lyrics use a lot of militarised and religious imagery to depict some sort of battle between head and heart, or the two opposing sides of a relationship. It’s a hopeful song, but it mainly focusses on the things that are stopping a person from letting themselves fall in love, and how they will one day fight those demons and let it happen. The unlit flame is something that is incomplete, I have no idea where the image came from, sometimes things like that just appear out of nowhere.

We were struck by Charlie’s skill as a performer, by his ability to hold the audience in the palm of his hand. Whether or not it was because it was largely a familiar audience, a lot of people he knew, or it was something that came to him naturally, he nonetheless appeared completely at home on that stage.

Charlie is currently on tour across the UK with Callaghan. Check out the following dates and locations:

Thu, 3 UK, Derby, The Venue
Sat, 5 UK, York, The Basement 
Wed, 9 UK, Edinburgh, The Voodoo Room
Thu, 10 UK, Manchester, Fallow Cafe
Fri, 11 UK, Totnes, South Devon Arts Centre
Mon, 14 UK, Birmingham, The Sunflower Lounge
Wed, 16 UK, London, The Forge 
Fri, 18 UK, Ramsgate, Ramsgate Music Hall
Sat, 19 UK, North Lincolnshire, Kirton in Lindsey Town Hall

Find Charlie Hole online on his official WebsiteFacebook and Twitter.

About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email lisa@essentiallypop.com

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