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Chiddingfold Club, Surrey, 5 May 2008

The Hoax

The Hoax, (l to r) Hugh Coltman, Jesse Davey, Tom Latham
(Photo: Gary Field)

You never say never in rock and roll. And so it came to pass that after nearly 9 years away from it all The Hoax made an unexpected reunion on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the release of their ‘Humdinger’ album and the final night of the Chiddingfold Club.

In fact it wasn’t quite The Hoax as bass player Robin Davey was missing apparently stuck in the States and his place was admirably taken by the former Melt and current Scott McKeon bass man Tom Latham who formed a formidable partnership alongside the redoubtable Mark Barrett on drums.

The Hoax

Jesse Davey (Photo: Gary Field)

On they strode looking like the most disparate bunch of musicians imaginable. The startling contrast between the white figure of Jesse Davey with his de rigueur LA attire of long hair, goatee beard and flamboyant sunglasses, with the Dr Feelgood style smart suite and tie of fellow guitarist Jon Amor was almost incongruous while the fully bearded mop top of Hugh Coltman looked for all the world like a left bank Parisian poet.

Perhaps the three fiercely independent characters had something to prove to each other, because musically they returned at the very peak of their abilities.

The Hoax

Jon Amor (Photo: Gary Field)

Much has changed since The Hoax called it a day. SRV may not quite be the same God he was back in the mid 90’s and rock has long since been levered into the nether regions of a niche market. But let’s not forget that The Hoax had already matured and grown of age with their superb suitably titled ‘Humdinger’ album before they called it a day.

And it was this album that featured heavily on the night being re-issued as a CD with bonus tracks and a DVD apparently charting its creation. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Hugh played very little harp and spent most of the evening growing in stature as a mighty vocalist.

The Hoax

 Jesse Davey (front) and Jon Amor
(Photo: Gary Field)

So while messieurs Davey and Amor spent a good deal of the evening embellishing some mighty shuffles with all manner of deep toned accompaniment, Coltman’s voice remained steadfast, leading the band through the full range of dynamics and wringing every last nuance from the songs.

Opening with the up tempo ‘High Expectations’ and the riff driven ‘Fistful of Dirt the Hoax quickly upped the ante on Groovebreaker’ which actually started in a languid vein before the rhythm section pushed the groove to the limit and the guitars broke through the tension with a mighty Jesse solo followed by Amor in a cooler jazzier mode.

In fact it took little more than the opening handful of songs for the band to reach the heights that made them so unique back in the 90’s.

The Hoax

 Hugh Coltman (Photo: Gary Field)

If anything Hugh seemed reticent to play his harp, finally succumbing on ‘20 Ton Weight’ and then kicking into top gear on the show stopping Lester Butler song ‘Automatic’. It may have escaped people’s notice but it’s also ten years since the Red Devils harp man died. He influenced a generation and especially it seems The Hoax who continue to share the same adulation as the great man did in Holland.

A guitar frenzy followed on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ on which Hugh added a startling banshee like wail, while on the edgy ‘Feeding Time’ he crouched at the front to sing a verse through his harp mic.

Perhaps most impressive of all was the band’s reading of their own slow blues ‘Don’t Shake My Hand’ which featured both a guitar cameo from Jesse Davey who leapt into the crowd while the unflappable Amor teased out the most delicate vibrato imaginable despite an amp problem.

But above all this deep blues outing featured Coltman at his expressive best, confidently giving full range to some emotive phrasing of the highest order. He further impressed with his use of elongated vowels and an ability to hold a note effortlessly as well as taking centre stage to sing a verse without the aid of his mic.

If anything this show simply restated The Hoax’s collective brilliance. They still sound like the most contemporary blues outfit on the planet and they always seem to be playing within themselves building up numbers incrementally, never wasting notes and always eagerly pursuing fresh possibilities.

By the time of the closing monumental shuffle Jon Amor and Jesse Davey dusted down their party piece of each playing the others guitar neck, but even this little piece of theatre was merely a conduit to a climactic outro. The crowd exploded, Amor sent his tie into the front row, and the band had just ridden roughshod over the old adage that you should never come back.


Review by Pete Feenstra

Photos by Gary Field


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