Live at The Stables
By Lesley Hastings
Another Friday night battling through nightmare roadworks to get to The Stables, Milton Keynes ( was there the previous week to see SaraBeth) and to be honest I felt like giving up……but thanks to an extremely helpful construction worker I made it to my destination just in time, and boy am I glad I did as what a gig I had in store! I see a lot of live music and this was honestly one of my total favourites for a long time!
With no support act , Will Hoge had already taken to the stage at the sold-out venue ( like last week, the setting was the smaller of the Stables two stages ) and as I sidled in he was tuning up and mentioning that he had brought his band over from Nashville to the UK for the first time which came as a real surprise to me ( in a good way!) knowing how expensive an undertaking this must have been. He also told a great story before he started to play, saying one of the reasons he was here, playing to 80 or so people in order to help pay his mortgage, was that a good few years back when he was a struggling writer he was asked to write for a new, upcoming female artist. He started to think about writing a song from a young girl’s perspective but when it transpired that she was both still in high school and lived 30 miles outside Nashville….plus she had a really silly name…..he declined the offer. That artist turned out to be Taylor Swift!
He then introduced the song he’d started formulating in his mind at the time, “Silver and Gold”, playing guitar and harmonica ( oh how I love a harmonica ) before welcoming his four-piece band to the stage to join him ( lead and bass guitarist, drummer and keyboard player). It was obvious from their first number together ( “Just Can’t Say Goodbye”, from his album 2009 “The Wreckage” ) that as well as being great musicians these guys were totally at ease with one another and really loving what they were doing, which to me is a very important factor in my enjoyment of any gig. They were all oozing passion for their craft, and their energy throughout the evening was amazing to witness.
The set ( split into two at the venue’s insistence, possibly to increase their bar-takings??……..a shame as it was obvious from what Will told us that he’d rather have played straight through) was a great mixture of songs from Will’s pretty extensive back catalogue and his most current release, ” Small Town Dreams” ( read my review here if you fancy https://thinkcountry.co.uk/reviews/will-hoge-2/) and it was refreshing to hear an artist who wasn’t intent on plugging his latest CD at every chance! Moving swiftly between the first few mid-tempo songs , the tempo picked up with ” Better Off Now That You’re Gone” , another song which saw Will on harmonica and “Too Old to Die Young” and I found myself cursing the fact that this was a seated gig. Looking around there was a lot of toe-tapping going on, so I am sure I wasn’t alone! While the subject matter of many of Will’s songs isn’t that original, he writes some great lines and he really does sing from the heart, with his rough, gravelly vocals ( more rock/blues than country maybe?) suiting his writing perfectly. This was never more evident than on the couple of songs he sang when he put down his guitar, “When I Can Afford To Lose” and in particular on the bluesy, 6/8 timed “When I Get My Wings”, one of my favourites of the night along with ” Another Song Nobody Will Hear” and “Desperate Times” ( some lovely slide guitar and honky tonk piano on this one from his band members).
Will is a very amusing story teller ( as the Taylor Swift anecdote demonstrated!) and delivered several more anecdotes throughout the evening, another which made me smile was about his two sons….. on hearing their Dad was coming over to England the younger one (5) said he was going to meet the Queen , but he was shot down in flames by his 8 year old brother who said this wasn’t the case, he wouldn’t actually get to meet her as she was just going to hear him play! Who knows, maybe she’ll turn up at his London date! He also apologised for the absence of any t-shirts at the merch stand, apparently he’d done the “right thing” and ordered them from the UK, supporting industry here, to be delivered directly to the Stables ( the first date of his tour) to avoid any aggravation at customs, but they hadn’t arrived!
I loved the tales he told of his growing up, in particular how he was given an old transistor radio as a kid, and how he spent hours listening to it, turning the tuning knob from station to station and listening to every conceivable type of music . This inspired him to write the song that he told us changed his life, the wonderful “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” ( recorded by the Eli Young Band, it earned them a number 1 hit and received a CMA nomination for song of the year)
The evening flew by as any great gig should, and Will and the band all hung around afterwards to chat, sign CD’s and pose for photos which is one of the many reasons i prefer to see artists at smaller venues given the chance.
Apparently they don’t play the same set at every date on the tour, so if you’re reading this having seen them at another venue this time around you may well have been fortunate enough to hear two of my favourites from his new album, ” The Last Thing I Needed'” and “Guitar Or A Gun”. But hey, I can honestly say i didn’t realise he hadn’t included them ’til I was driving home, as I loved every single number in the set, several of which were new to me, and next time he comes i will ensure i get to see him more than just once! Yes, i may turn into a Will Hoge groupie!
- Silver and Gold (solo)
- Just Can’t Say Goodbye
- Small town Dreams
- Better Off Now ( That You’ve Gone)
- Too Old To Die Young
- When I Can Afford To Lose
- Desperate Times
- Better Than You
- Just Get By
- Sometimes home Is Where The Heart Breaks (solo)
- Fool’s Going To Fly
- Another Song Nobody Will Hear
- Still Got You On My Mind
- Little Bitty Dreams
- When I Get My Wings
- Daddy Was A Damblin’ Man
- Even If It Breaks Your Heart
- Til I Do It Again
- The Highway’s Home