Mr Hudson

Pretty boy pop prince comes to Belfast, sans Jay Z, writes Ryan Hand

Any passer by commuting down Ormeau Avenue would have been spoilt. The strip of road that famously hosts the Spring and Airbrake and The Limelight has a fine offering of local talent on both sides of the house. Cashier No.9, Kowalski and John Darcy set the scene next door, as the sultry songstress Cara Cowan and Ram’s Pocket Radio join forces on the bill in the Spring and Airbrake.

Not forgetting that blonde-haired chap from London, of course, Mr Hudson himself. He is the only artist tonight who may have been affected by something worse than the Icelandic banking crisis – yes, the country’s famous volcano and resulting ash cloud. Lucky for us, he is safe, sound and in the Spring and Airbrake.

However I can’t help but question whether Belfast’s inner city transport service has been disrupted, as the venue is only half full. It’s beyond dispute that Mr Hudson (aka Benjamin Hudson McIldowie) is the new kid on the block, but you’d expect a more gracious turnout for a man who has Kanye West and Jay Z saved in his mobile phone contacts.

Despite the audience numbers, Mr Hudson's live delivery of his recently released second album, Straight no Chaser, is remarkable. The album, a product of a broken relationship, focuses on the recovery process following the break up from a long term girlfriend.

Backed by a band heavily armed with keyboards and sound effects, it is reassuring to see that Mr Hudson arrives without his voice synthesiser; most notably used on the single ‘Supernova’ featuring Kanye West. Straight no Chaser is so heavily influenced by effects it makes the Starship Enterprise sound off key, so it's welcoming to hear the likes of ‘Lift Your Head’ in all its live, untouched glory.

Hearing the beautifully written mid-tempo pop track presents an opportunity for the gathering to experience Mr Hudson minus the added effects. The London lad is tune perfect live, his vocals clearer and more effective when accompanied by piano or guitar, rather than having to battle over the top of a dominant synthesised keyboard.

Although who am I to advise? I haven’t sold millions of records, nor have I worked with music’s hall of fame, and going by crowd response, I might be wrong. Having collaborated with West and Jay Z on the mega successful hits ‘Supernova’ and ‘Young Forever’, Mr Hudson's electronic sound obviously works.

It's evident, following these two tracks tonight - sans megastars - that Hudson could deliver without the hip-hop swagger of West or Jay Z.

Good riddance to those who didn’t push the boat out and purchase a ticket amid these financially tight times. The no-goers missed out on banking a few quid from the scarf that Mr Hudson heaved into the gathering, and advised flogging on Ebay.

The credit crunch still looms, and with the Icelandic banking crisis in the past, Hudson’s scarf seems like a modest and secure investment.