Darren Hayman’s productivity over the last few years has been mentioned more than once in this blog, and he apparently isn’t letting up anytime soon. He just released a live concert recording of himself performing with the band The Wave Pictures as his back-up band, recorded 2007 in Madrid, Spain – descriptively titled Madrid. According to the official webpages (here), it is primarily available for downloading through iTunes or other similar services, but it’s equally available on CD for low price through the hefnet webshop. No information on whether or not the CD version is a limited edition release or not.
My hard copy of the release arrived by mail last week, and I figured I’d try listening to it like I used to listen to the classic Hefner albums: in bed at night with headphones. Perhaps to recapture some of the magic. Now, the obvious weakness with this method of listening is the danger of falling asleep. (Which I actually did, just before the last song was over.) Still, it also allows you to get more intimate with the music than you may in other contexts, as there’s just you and the music and no other factors to disturb you.
The set starts with Darren apologising for his vocals being a bit croaky, and it might show on a few songs; the louder and “screechier” parts of “The Weight Of The Stars” and “How Can I Be Certain” definitely feels a bit off (perhaps enough to elicit the odd blush), but it might be that Darren simply isn’t able to perform these tunes as he has in the past (the voice changes and matures as one ages, after all, for better or for worse), or that they’re better suited to a studio environment than being performed live.
The set list contains twelve songs, six of which are Hefner songs, five of which are Darren Hayman solo songs, and the remaining song belonging to Darren’s sadly short lived electronica duo The French. The most surprising song to me was “How Can I Be Certain”, mentioned above, which is from the 2006 two-disc collection of unreleased Hefner / Darren Hayman recordings Catfight!, and one of my favourite ones from said collection. I looked forward to hearing it performed live, but as mentioned his voice didn’t hold up that well through it. He also bashes his own lyrics in said song, which is always a bit awkward for fans.
The highlight of the disc for me was definitely “Genesis Rock”, a rockin’ unreleased song about the 8th man on the moon, James Irwin. When introducing the song it’s mentioned that it’s written as part of a planned concept album about all the twelve astronauts who’ve walked on the moon. However, this recording is from 2007, and since then he’s released three non-astronaut albums. So one may wonder whether the project has been shelved, or if it’s still in progress.
All in all the live CD – the third live CD in Darren’s discography – was a pleasant enough listening experience for an old fan. It’s not perfect (and there’s some mobile phone interference audible in the quieter parts), but given the low price and some decent performances I’m definitely happy with it. I’m not sure how often I’ll listen to these songs individually though, but it definitely works as a complete CD.