Thursday, 11 July 2013

I See Hawks in LA - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham Sunday 7th July 2013

This sultry Sunday evening in the Kitchen Garden Café had a double southern Californian feel about it. Not only did the soaring daytime temperatures linger long after the sun went down but a little bit of west coast sparkle was in the air as I See Hawks in LA popped along to play a gig towards the end of their UK tour. Straight off the back from a critically acclaimed set at the Maverick Festival, the band led by Rob Waller on guitar/vocals and capably flanked by fellow guitarists, Paul Marshall and Paul Lacques illustrated a vision of the west through their expansive songs and country influenced sound.

Without any support, the guys played a pair of ear pleasing fairly laid back sets that satisfied an audience prepared to sit back and absorb the listening pleasure of a band saturated in Americana virtue. I see Hawks in LA have been fortunate enough to secure the funding for two very recent back-to- back releases and songs from these records dominated most of this show.

Two tracks immediately stood out from the 2012 album NEW KIND OF LONELY when heard live. We were introduced to a flavour of their home state with a description of the ‘Bohemian Highway’ and to the fact that between the three of them, they had seen the Grateful Dead in three separate decades thus inspiring the song ‘I Fell in Love with the Grateful Dead’. The invitation to visit them in their proud home state of California may have been metaphorical but the sincerity of their onstage presence is part of the I See Hawks in LA charm.

Also from this album we were treated to the title track, the evening’s opening song ‘Mary Austin Sky’ and as part of a two number encore ‘Highland Park Serenade’. However one on the prime purposes of this current UK tour is to promote their brand new record MYSTERY DRUG and several excellent tracks from this top album were shared with the audience. ‘Oklahoma’s Going Dry’ shows the band’s perceptive view on the issues of the wider west and you couldn’t fail to be impressed by the melodious tones of ‘If You Remind Me’. Two other tracks from the new album that came over well live were the almost hypnotic ‘One Drop of Human Blood’ and the amusing ‘Rock n Roll Cymbal from the Seventies’.

There were high hopes that one of the best tracks heard anywhere this year would appear somewhere in the show and it duly appeared mid way through the second half. ‘We Could All Be In Laughlin Tonight’ is a wonderful road song of a band trudging around the lowlife venues but still holding a torch to a prosperous future. Needless to say the performance of this song was not only majestic but one of the highlights of any song performed live this year especially when Rob sang the immortal line ‘here’s the band menu tonight, order anything you like, no lobster, no steak, no top shelf delight’.

After that song the evening couldn’t be topped but the band still pulled out all the stops to keep their quality brand of country rock, folk and Americana flowing and treat the responsive crowd to an extra helping including the epic ‘The River Knows’ as one of the show closers. The reluctant but necessary curtailing of their Maverick Festival set to see other artists had been fully redeemed. Rob joked afterwards whether the good or bad half was seen but many audiences seeing I See Hawks in LA live on this tour know the word bad isn’t one that enters your mind after exposing yourself to their dulcet tones. 

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