LIVE: ALBERT HAMMOND JR TAKES US TO CHURCH

Albert Hammond Jr’s latest headlining tour burned through the Mid-Atlantic last week, hitting almost every major city up the coast before stopping by New York’s Brooklyn Steel for an explosive sold-out show. The tour comes in support of Hammond Jr’s latest record Francis Trouble, a jarring but upbeat release inspired by the stillborn birth of his twin brother Francis. “I liked the idea that you could have fun and tell a story,” Hammond explained to Rolling Stone about the new album. “Wear a mask to tell it, but have it have depth.”

Albert Hammond Jr is a true rock star in many ways, especially in the sense that he is a showman as much as he is an artist. He harnesses the rare gift of being a natural entertainer: Hammond Jr spent his time onstage at Brooklyn Steel in constant motion, twisting into backbends, catapulting off drum kits, sprinting down the stage, shredding through guitar solos, plunging his body into the air, and jack-knifing off the stage. Albert Hammond Jr’s energy was infectious, assaulting the crowd with such fervor that it too became entirely kinetic. Francis Trouble‘s slick catalog of guitar-driven rock sounded appropriately more raucous live than in the studio, so that by the time the set was over, his hollering riffs still electrified the air. After seeing Albert Hammond Jr command the arena-scaled Steel with such confidence and power, it felt like a steal to see the same show two nights later in a Philadelphia church basement.

On Good Friday, Hammond Jr walked onto the stage of Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church outfitted in both a crisp white Marc Bolan tee shirt and an ear-to-ear grin. His walk-on music, an ironic snippet from The Doors’ “The Soft Parade” (“You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!”), took on a whole new meaning in the basement of the congregation; the church workers running the event hooted in approval. The following show was anything but holy, a violent and passionate mess of fans drunk Hammond Jr’s primal energy. The crowd spilled onto the stage with corybantic delight, begging for “one more song” after Hammond Jr promised he was on his last. Hammond Jr gave them five.

The tiny church basement felt just as colossal as Brookyn Steel when Hammond Jr was onstage. The musician looked like he was having the most fun of his entire career, all smiles as he eagerly resumed Brooklyn Steel’s acrobatic routine and challenged fans with playful banter. Hammond Jr got so excited at one point that he tripped over his guitar, an iconic white Fender Strat, sending both guitar and artist toppling down. It was incredibly rewarding to witness an artist feel as much joy from his own music as the audience — and even more rewarding to see an audience so enraptured by a single performer. “We love you, Albert!” the crowd affectionately shouted after Hammond Jr had left the stage for good. “You’re the man, Albert! We love you!”

I am certain that anyone who says rock ‘n roll is dead has never been to an Albert Hammond Jr show.

Check out our photos of Albert Hammond Jr at First Unitarian Church (3/30) below:

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Catch Albert Hammond Jr on tour in a city near you.

 

by Megan Schaller

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