Albert Hammond, Jr. returns to Brighton for the first time since 2006 tonight in support of his new EP ‘AHJ’.
It’s been a massive year for the 33-year-old guitar icon. The Strokes (his day job) released their fifth album ‘Comedown Machine’ in March, almost exactly 2 years after their last. In addition, his EP came out in October under his bandmate Julian Casablancas’ label Cult Records, marking a surprise solo return after six years.
Hammond, Jr. and his band arrive on stage to rapturous applause and open with ‘Holiday’ from Albert’s first solo album ‘Yours To Keep’. “Warm sun, tells me that it’s more fun to stay on holiday,” he croons into the microphone while effortlessly weaving a suitably sunny riff on guitar.
‘Scared’ from the same album has added bite live. His guitar work is beefed up with the force of two other guitarists in the band and when the chorus drops it sounds huge. As good as these older tracks sound the crowd is subdued and Hammond, Jr. at times appears to be going through the motions.
When the band plays the new EP tracks we see an instant change in the frontman. ‘Cooker Ship’ burns with intensity and lines like ‘Self-inflicted nightmare… lately I’m just not quite myself.’ strike a chord in the context in which they were written. The singer has been very candid about his struggles with drug addiction throughout his career and he seems rejuvenated when playing the new tracks.
The crowd’s response to lead single ‘St Justice’ is rapturous. “There were dreams in my eyes that now, don’t shine through,” sings Hammond, Jr. affectingly while the guitar solo at the song’s midpoint soars.
He keeps his interaction with the crowd minimal but seems happy, albeit focused. The band cover ‘Postal Blowfish’ by Guided By Voices, a major influence of The Strokes. The band seem to be enjoying themselves and it’s received with nostalgic appreciation in the crowd of 20/30 somethings.
As the last chords of the Springsteen-saluting “The Boss Americana” are still resonating in our ears the band disappear offstage leaving Albert alone. The lights dim and the Strokes axe-man plays a beautiful rendition of majestic ‘Yours To Keep’ track ‘Blue Skies’. Flashes go off throughout the Haunt and the atmosphere is electric as the crowd unites to sing the lines of the chorus with him. There’s a twinkle in his eyes and you get the feeling this is somewhat of a resurrection and a second chance at greatness. Welcome back, Albert we’ve missed you.
Haunt, Thursday 5th December 2013
Words by Andy Baker
Photos by Ashley Laurence