Live music review: Hamell on Trial

Hamell on Trial

Dingwalls, London

November 4


A wise soul once pontificated that while the entertainer gives people what they want, the artist gives people what they need.  Playing to a near empty Dingwalls on the night of the US Presidential election, singer-songwriter Ed Hamell – the one man act that goes under the moniker Hamell on Trial – clearly sees himself as the latter.


The New York native certainly delivers the goods, mixing blackly comic acoustic guitar ditties with his rapid-fire, Goodfella standup, railing against the hypocrisy, intellectual laziness and general vileness that permeates much of contemporary culture.


During the broadly biographical show, the self-professed anarchist name checks Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Keith Moon and John Lennon as primary influences, with the last pop icon the topic of a song that peaks with the ex-Beatle telling Hamell to "Fuck off!"  Although he is most at home hammering the hell out of his heavily amplified guitar and profanely skewering bosses, the mainstream media and the Republican Party, arguably the best part of the gig is when Hamell turns on a dime and suddenly produces songs like the exquisite Hail, a delicate hymn about hate crimes told by two lovers in heaven.


No doubt many of his lyrics and monologues shock in certain parts of his homeland – his joke about buggering the Christ-impersonator David Blaine was particularly delightful.  However, the meagre crowd tonight happily lap up Hamells ultimately progressive and loving worldview.  Preaching to the converted then?  Certainly.  All he needs is for more people to convert…


*An edited version of this review recently appeared in the Morning Star.

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