Silence and supercilious staff are what you’d normally expect to find in a council library. But last Friday night, the bespectacled head book keeper at the Swiss Cottage Library threw caution to the wind and allowed Mr Hudson and his prodigiously talented band, The Library, to shake the folios from the shelves.
Part of the Get It Loud in Libraries series of events, which will see this awesome band performing in a whole host of UK bibliotheques, Mr Hudson et al’s fusion of hip-hop, reggae, ska and grime are marking them out as something quite unique and they’re still buzzing from snagging a coveted spot on Jools Holland late last year.
Trilby doffing Ben Hudson, is the charismatic, dapper troubadour who fronts this motley five piece. Swaggering on stage wearing a massive diamante MR H on his belt buckle matched with a tweed waistcoat and signature hat, his sartorial style is reflected in his music: He’s part to the manor born, part ghetto raised and his pick pocketing of musical genres shines through in a set which sees steel pans, electric drums, and virtuoso piano playing by the intense Torville Jones and canny song writing, coming together to create a live act that has a funky new wave feel.
Equally influenced by the lyrics of Chet Baker and Cole Porter, the production skills of Jay-Z and The Roots, and the energy of UK grime and hip hop, Mr H is a unique cross pollination and his musical mix-ups and clever, arresting lyrics, mean that the band has been championed by the likes of Sway and 1Xtra’s DJ Semtex.
Non chart single, Bread And Roses which has got rave reviews and airplay on Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe on Radio 1, and Jonathan Ross on Radio 2 was the band’s opening number, and a side ways glance at materialism and greed, which left memorable guitar riffs and lyrics to stray out over the crowd. The band’s new single out next week, Too late, Too late, featured twice in the hour long set, showcased Hudson’s distinctive London drawl and by the end the crowd were singing his “Why must I always play the clown?” refrain, straight back at him.
One Specific thing, a bitter sweet break up song which combines Hudson’s dry delivery and the soaring vocals of Joy Joseph – a Jill Scott in waiting – with a real reggae tip, is another memorable tune. Hudson’s cover of the classic My Funny Valentine, was poignant and soulful and he admitted ruefully that they just don’t make songs like this like they used to. But the anthem of the show which I left humming to myself was What Tune Is This? – an upbeat, summery song which makes you want to turn the radio up and annoy your neighbours. It’s a tune with an inescapable vibe.
Mr Hudson And The Library’s debut album A Tale Of Two Cities is due out on Mercury in March. My advice: catch them now, in small venues, where the music feels fresh and in your face because before long they are going to be playing at mega venues and then you’ll have to look through binoculars to catch a glimpse of Mr H’s eye catching on-stage get ups.