North London troubadour scrubs up well to break his high-energy folk out of the underground. Dingwalls, London (March 13)
Kid Harpoon’s been around for ages, right? Isn’t everyone bored of waiting for the scruffy oik to release a proper album? Does this troubadour from north London even have any fans left? Of course he does. The man otherwise known as Tom Hull may have had little press fanfare, having only released one single and a couple of EPs so far, but the devotion on display tonight marks him out as being a real underground success story.
Sartorially, this year’s Kid is a changed man; he’s now a dapper, moustachioed cad, decked out in a black shirt, braces and what look suspiciously like Victorian breeches. If it wasn’t for the gorgeous vintage Gibson guitar strapped to his chest he could be mistaken for an off-duty extra from Zulu. Backed by a rhythm section and lead guitarist and flanked by a female keyboardist and violinist, Kid Harpoon kicks off with first single ‘Riverside’ to some wild crowd singalongs. And when the first high-speed Cossack polka bit comes in (as happens in almost every song), the audience are jumping nearly as much as our Kid is getting his knees up. The likes of ‘Hold On’ and ‘Flowers On The Shore’ mix folk influences with the high energy of rock, totally bypassing any fiddle-de-dee gypsy hokum vomited up by artists with little imagination and even less taste (cough The Holloways cough). By the time the customary raucous cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘First We Take Manhattan’ brings the main set to a close, the tiny Dingwalls stage has been overrun with fans who take over the mic and kiss Kid Harpoon like he’s their saviour. And, in a way, he is. Kid Harpoon is totally out of step with the current music scene – he exists in a little pocket of his own, sounding neither modern nor archaic and, thankfully, despite being a regular at trendy Holloway boozer Nambucca, there’s no mockney accent present.
While the encore of ‘Late For The Devil’, featuring just the Kid and his violinist, shows off his impressive songwriting, Harpoon’s at his best as a live performer; a whirl of attention-deficit dervish and music-hall entertainer, all funny voices, lightning guitar skills and quirky magnetism. Witnessing the strength and rate of his improvement over the last year, it looks like this Kid won’t be an underground success story for much longer.