Review: The Moseley Arms – Birmingham

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A Tom Hingley solo show in Birmingham on the Friday night followed by the Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays coming to the city on the Saturday – is this the result of a workaholic singer or a fortunistic coincidence of pre-determined dates?

Neither, as it happens, as Tom is no longer with the Inspiral Carpets – he doesn’t want to talk about the split just yet, although all may be revealed in Tom’s new book that is due to be published in July. I can’t imagine what the Saturday night show will be like though – with Tom’s voice dominating almost all of the bands singles (apart from the first couple), someone else singing them would be in danger of turning the set into a ‘tribute’ band show!

Although no longer in the Inspirals, he is a hard working musician; playing over 140 shows a year, either solo or with his band Tom Hingley & The Lovers.

So what did we get tonight (after ‘Little Liam’s’ acoustic set warmed up the crowd) from Tom and his acoustic guitar? A big voice and a big sound, that’s what. As you would expect, plenty of numbers from the Inspirals back catalogue, commencing with ‘Saturn 5’ and ‘Dragging Me Down’. And then something you probably wouldn’t expect – some excellent authentic blues playing (both straight and bottleneck). I had never realised what a virtuoso Tom was on the guitar – quickly, between songs, moving his guitar to alternate tunings, but playing some really great blues that had the small but appreciative crowd making plenty of noise. I could see Tom doing this kind of material to great effect on Jools Holland’s’ ‘Later’ show.

As always with Tom, there was plenty of good banter with the crowd between songs (‘I know I look like a Physics teacher these days’), and even mid-song on one occasion when he was playing a quiet a beautiful acoustic number and a couple of lads close to the front were making too much noise!!!

We got an acoustic version of James’ ‘Sit Down’ followed by some more blues, ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Fighter Anymore’ and ending with the Inspirals’ ‘Sackville’.

The crowd shouted for more so back Tom came – this time holding up a Tommy Hilfiger parodied T-shirt with Tommy Hingley as the branding. He told us that he would be touring the second Inspirals album, The Beast Inside, with a full band in the autumn of 2012 and then brought the evening to a close with a final piece of superbly executed blues.

Tom still has that big, distinctive, voice that reminds you of all of those great Inspiral Carpets songs – and now he has brought to the fore his great musicianship too. I can’t help thinking that, in some small way, there are parallels between Steve Marriott and Tom (and I’m in no way comparing them here) – both high charting pop stars playing big venues that, later in their careers, seemed happy working hard around the pubs and small venue circuits to keep getting their music out there.  For them it is about music over money, artistic integrity over material possessions.

Paul Hooper-Keeley

Tom Hingley ‘live’ at The Moseley Arms, Birmingham, Friday 11th May 2012

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