Mr Hudson, The Roundhouse, London
Usurped by a late registration
Thursday 09 July 2009
Here's a statement of intent: call your second album, the big one, the one you have more money for, the one where you really try to win over the general public, after Thelonious Monk's Straight, No Chaser, one of the most famous jazz albums ever made.
Team up with some sort of big name artist in America – why not aim high, say, at Kanye West, arguably the biggest musical star in the US right now, who through freakishly good luck you've managed to secure a relationship with – go big on the harmonies, go big on the choruses, try to get everyone singing along and before long, you'll be selling out stadiums.
A few years ago, Ben Hudson was playing acoustic gigs in pubs in Kentish Town; West now publicly suggests that he could go on to be one of the biggest stars in the world. That's probably hip-hop hubris for you, but there's no denying that the collaboration between this Oxford-educated fop and the biggest ego in US rap is probably the greatest asset any rising star in the UK currently possesses. The problem is, where does this leave Hudson? His first album was all wistful, Bowie-influenced ballads and eccentricities; it was actually rather good, but only just about made a splash. He's now having to live up to the expectations of a man who might genuinely believe that he can touch the sky.
The results, we see tonight at this packed performance. The production is a ramped-up version of that seen at Hudson's set at the Scala earlier in the year – the new album is clearly more mainstream, more anthemic, with more than a couple of clear and catchy singles. Hudson is tragically beset with a croaky voice three songs in and struggles – admirably, it has to be said – to maintain his notes from then on in. But it is only when West arrives for the encore that the crowd properly wakes up; and the gig then enters its second phase. The pair perform their single, "Supernova", together, West's Auto-Tune essentially meaning that he could make a sound like a geriatric dog farting into the microphone and still be able to hold a note. It's a good song, though probably not as good as what either of them could do on their own. You can't help feeling that Hudson is too good to be playing second fiddle to someone else or trying to cater to a load of fairweather fans who would only sing along if they knew a bigger star was around the corner.
Whatever the 19-year-old music producers in the audience think about this event "making history", after the show two 17-year-olds are walking out, one speaking into her mobile. "The gig wasn't very good," she says. "Then Kanye arrived and it got wicked."
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