Rychard Carrington reports on Peter Hammill - The Junction, Cambridge, 19 May 2010

Peter Hammill
Junction 2, The


There were less punters present than at the Van der Graaf gig here two years ago, but this was definitely the better evening. For all the band's smart arrangements, a solo concert is the best way to encounter Hammill. His lyrical persona is so much that of the isolated individual, it's appropriate that he's on stage completely alone.


Hammill is unique. Firstly for his wordy, intellectual lyrics. To be sure, there's death and doomed love a-plenty, but Hammill's take is uniquely philosophical: ‘for example, if I'd spent a lifetime / in pursuit of miraculously common sense / I'd still feel stupid now / I'm waiting on a final clue, a final validation', for example. But it's the delivery that carries the emotion. Is there any other performer who's so intense, yet so in control? The measured passion of the vocals is particularly potent live, as is the accompaniment on grand piano. Hammill hammers hard, creating a drama that is edgy yet elegant. For a few numbers he delivers something similar on guitar, but the piano is his forte. And after the intense musical drama of each song, a mild-mannered sixty-one-year-old gentleman acknowledges the audience pleasantly.


Older classics Easy To Slip Away and Just Good Friends made for a strong opening, but then the rest of the numbers were equally strong, including those from the latest album, Thin Air. At the end there was a standing ovation, unusual at this venue. Some of us recognise a distinctive master.


Writer: Rychard Carrington