Hawksley Workman

What a way to kick off PuSh Festival’s Club PuSh last night with Hawksley Workman’s ‘The God That Comes’! This work in progress opened the festive Performance Works Theatre space, transformed into a candlelit night club venue for the run of the 9th annual performing arts festival.

2013 PuSh Festival Opening Gala/Festival Executive Director Norman Armour
[Festival Executive Director Norman Armour at the 2013 PuSh Festival Opening Gala]

Executive Director Norman Armour kicked things off by reiterating how important the arts are in this city, given the demise of so many vital organizations in the past year, continuing right into 2013 with the Waldorf Hotel fiasco. His near brush with death last year was saved by the very community that he works so closely with: the PuSh Festival, bringing his life into full circle. He’s a very grateful man these days, and smiles more because of it.

Hawksley Workman can best be described as an enigmatic performer that hits every emotion (and nearly every instrument on stage), putting on a powerful and entertaining show. At times I laughed; during one particular song I was nearly brought to tears due to the song’s sheer beauty.

Hawksley Workman

The sold-out crowd packed in for an 80-minute set that saw the six times nominated, twice Juno award-winning songwriter in full form. On that small stage, he was a large presence. I counted the instruments he played during his set (nine) while he changed costumes, personalities, and styles, using the three mannequins on stage as prop holders.

Hawksley started off with a story about a King and God. “The King is a soldier and lives in the city. The god is new in town; he’s camping outside the city.” The storytelling continues throughout the performance, weaving in and out of the song cycle.

The lighting and theatrics are great, especially given the fact that this is a work in progress. Workman has appeared around the world, opening for some of my 80’s heroes: Morrissey, David Bowie, and The Cure. In his 12 year career to date, he’s produced a dozen records (“defying category”, according to his website). I agree. There is no way to describe his songs, other than to experience them. I kept looking for possible inspirations – Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour circa The Wall could fit the bill in some aspects.

As well as musical styles, expect any number and variety of props to show up during the cabaret style show. “Ukelele Boy” is particularly twisted and riotous at times. Quiet songs will gain momentum until Hawksley is howling, then it’s back to a near whisper. Another song starts out by asking, “If your prayer is a dress, do you wear it low cut?”.

I won’t give away the antics nor the details that go into making this show a highly unique one to watch, but if you haven’t seen Hawksley Workman yet, now’s your chance.

He’ll be performing ‘The God That Comes’ for two more nights at Club PuSh. Advance tickets are limited; take your chances at the door.

Hawksley Workman photos by Blake Sitter.

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