Gig review: Luke Haines at The Calder, Wakefield

Luke Haines
Luke Haines
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Numerous tributes have been paid to Lou Reed, from cover versions to column inches, but Luke Haines has gone one better by writing a new track about the man who convinced him it wasn’t necessary for a singer to be able to sing.

An art-pop homage to the Velvet Underground’s simplicity, ‘Lou Reed Lou Reed’ can be played with one finger on the fifth fret of an acoustic guitar. Referencing Suicide and The Crystals, it manages to be simultaneously brilliantly dumb and archly self-aware.

Not that anything less should have been expected from the former Auteur, Black Box Recorder and Baader Meinhof singer-songwriter. This is, after all, a man who released an entire album about wrestling and whose latest concept album is populated by Gene Vincent, Nick Lowe and Jimmy Pursey in animal form.

It’s this love of sometimes obscure pop culture, combined with curdled milk vocals and caustically humorous lyrics that have made him such a fascinating figure for the last 20-years; a Ray Davies for an England forged from Blair’s Babes and bankers’ bonuses.

These traits coalesce around ‘New French Girlfriend’, which is segued into a section of ‘Child Psychology’. A perfect pop song that clocks in at under three-minutes, it was initially written for Vanessa Paradis yet was too clever to ride the coat tails of Britpop into the top twenty.

It’s a tale of thwarted commercial success that’s repeated time and again tonight, as ‘Showgirl’, ‘Future Generation and ‘Alan Vega Says’ are performed in stripped down solo form. Interrupting the tracks from time to time to explain the references or, in the case of ‘Leeds United’, to point out the prescience of a Jimmy Savile lyric, they go some way to disproving his assertion that, “rock and roll is all artifice”.

The limitations of Haines’ guitar playing mean that it’s musically tricky to differentiate between some of the tracks, but as a lyricist he remains a vitally caustic thorn in society’s side.

Gig date: November 27

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