Tom Hickox

Tom Hickox


Support slots are a funny thing. Important in the development of any musician’s career, and often arriving with the inherited prestige of the headline artist. When I ask Tom Hickox, London singer-songwriter, about the prospect of supporting former Teardrop Explodes frontman and all-round eccentric Julian Cope, his face lights up.

“An honour, it really is” he says, smiling. And I don’t doubt that. Cope is a cult figure and something of an enigma, equally capable of writing effortless pop as meandering madcap folk songs, not to mention authoring both fiction and antiquarian guides.

It’s a curious time for these dates to come about. With second album Monsters in the Deep a few weeks from release and critical, if not commercial, acclaim from his debut still lingering, Hickox is surely keen for any chance to impress. I know from experience that his wonderful baritone voice is hard to ignore.

Queueing to enter the venue illustrates the disciple-like nature of the headliner’s followers; a snaking swarm of lifelong fans sporting t-shirts from various tours and an air of excitement seldom seen in an older crowd. Much is made of being a tough act to follow, but here we have the lesser-spotted tough act to precede. Especially as it’s 7:30 on a Friday night, a red-rag-to-a-bull-invitation for post-work drinks if there ever was one.

Luckily, Hickox seems unfazed, confident in material new and old. His forthcoming album sees real artistic expansion; the observational lyrics remain but the raw balladry of his debut makes way for a richer, bolder sound. The eponymous title track exemplifies this brave new direction well but it is the pop sensibility of ‘The Dubbing Artist’ that resonates with the crowd most.

He’s playing tonight with long-time Richard Hawley collaborator Shez Sheridan. Sheridan’s class is clear to see, from delivering wonderful slide guitar on ‘The Lisbon Maru’, to the huge sound they create for ‘White Roses Red’. As a duo they complement each other perfectly. If this is a stripped back performance, we’re in for a real treat with a full band.

Things aren’t always straightforward though and crowd attention does noticeably stray between songs. As unfortunate as it is understandable, crowd interaction and interesting backstories are lost in a haze of “whose round is it?” Things do turn around again when playing tender closer ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’, which regains the attention of most and rightfully so.

Exiting the stage to applause and cheers above the usual genial offering support acts receive, tonight could be the first sign of Tom Hickox reaching the audience his talent deserves.

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Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer