Damianista’s note 03/22/2023: Since the Hoxton Hall gig has been recorded professionally and that it will be released later this year, we cannot share the live videos we made at the gig. But you may find live videos from Damian’s other gigs on our YouTube channel.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I had a 48-hour lightning trip to London for fun with fan friends and a fantastic evening of music at Hoxton Hall in East End with the one and only Damian Lewis and his fabulous band. And when I asked my blog mate Gingersnap before my trip that whether she thought I was crazy, I got this response.
“You’re not crazy. But you have a new name. Groupie!”
Seriously, how many times do you need to travel to see a musician in action to qualify as a groupie? 🙂
It was such a magical night that, ten days later, this groupie still the under the spell of Damian’s spectacular performance and ready to tell you all about how our Ginger Elvis has ruled on stage and off – he has made time for everyone, his guests and his fans, after the gig. He had pictures taken, gave autographs as well as bear hugs.
So please come join me in the historic and intimate music hall that is Hoxton Hall, and live or re-live ( if you were lucky enough to be there!) every single detail from that terrific evening.
First things first. I owe huge thanks to my brilliant fan friends for their help in making this post a success. I cannot thank (in alphabetical order) Darlene, Hellie, Monique, Tsveti and Vincent enough for taking pictures and making videos to share with the fandom on Fan Fun. It was such a pleasure spending this wonderful evening of music with my front row crowd! YOU GUYS ROCK! And we sure hope to continue the tradition.
So… when do you typically go to a club when they say doors open at 7:30pm? 7ish? Maybe even later if you skip the support act. Me, too… typically. But not for Damian. And I am very lucky to have a bunch of fan friends who agree with me. In short: Darlene and I are the first to arrive at Hoxton Hall early enough (hmmm…. yeah at 5pm!!!!!) to make sure we will be the first to get into the music hall! We receive a warm welcome from Steve Abbott, Damian’s manager. Steve is such a sweetheart that, on the condition that we leave our cameras behind, he lets us watch the sound check. Lo and behold, there is Damian on stage – a surreal experience. We are grateful.
As Tsvetanka and Monique arrive a bit later, the team is complete! 🙂
We have a lovely chat with Cornelius, who brings us Ferrero Rocher chocolates and takes this picture, and with the Scottish guy (whose name sadly misses me) who teaches us how to nick Damian posters from downstairs 🙂 I show Steve the fridge magnets I had custom-made for fans that arrive early at the show. He likes the idea. And I, at some point, find myself giving out magnets and offering chocolates to fans who arrive at the venue. Feeling as part of the team is everything 🙂
Then arrive Vincent and Ellie (aka our London Spy) and her friend Pial, who are, exactly like me, 3 for 3 at London gigs! And my long-time social media friend Hellie, whom I am thrilled to finally meet in person, arrives with her friend Ceirwyn!
Done with the sound check, Damian and the band leave the venue – probably to eat something. But our guy first visits us at the line and does not forget to pat me on the shoulder. Thank you!
Doors finally open at around 7:30 or so and the stage is all set for the evening when we get there. Sadly, there is no handwritten set list this time, but a printed one. I get to study the set list: it is the same as the list at The Tabernacle gig yet the order of the songs is slightly different.
Amelia Watson is the support act . I am hearing her music for the first time, and I am no music critic… that said, being a good jazz listener, I am so impressed by her voice. I so love her cover of one of my all-time favorite tunes: “Ain’t No Sunshine.” And here she is playing one of her originals…
And it is time! Here is Damian on stage in the exact outfit (minus the jacket for the gig) he was spotted wearing early in the week in New York… Gingersnap could not help cat-call him on Twitter and we think he wore it to tease us (and no we do not care if this is true or not :)))
This is the exact outfit he had on at Hoxton Hall!
— Fan Fun Damian Lewis (@FanFunDamian) March 4, 2023
Damian greets the crowd as he tunes his guitar:
“That’s enough in tune for me. Welcome to East London all (then whispers it again in mic). Thanks for coming out.”
And they – Billy Adamson on guitar, Joe Webb on piano, Giacomo Smith on alto sax and clarinet, Will Cleasby on drums, Will Sach on bass and Kitty Liv on harmonica and vocals – take it away with Down On The Bowery – a deeply romantic tune in which one lover invites his other half to climb up him like a vine, join to him like a twin, stop him crying and start him laughing…
“I wrote this in New York.”
…and the penny drops! I may be completely off but I think this song was written for Alison for bringing love, joy and laughter into Damian’s life again. Lyrics say “Down on the Bowery, I just got healed…” <3 The big clue is NEW YORK here. They always stay at The Bowery Hotel on Bowery Street in New York!
Damian now takes us back to the times he did a lot of busking. He did the tubes, but he also had a motorbike and a tent and he went to busking in Southern France and Spain. He played wherever they let him. He judged badly one night as he crossed the Pyrenees. He built his tent in the middle of a storm, and realized, as darkness fell, that his tent had a huge hole on its roof… as the storm raged, he wondered if this could be the end…
“Zaragoza, here I come.”
“My friend Billy on the Guitar.”
Damian’s friend Billy is Billy Adamson, a guitarist and songwriter. You can check his Instagram here.
They go straight into Hole in My Roof. This one is about loss – having a hole in your roof, in your head. You feel it in Damian’s deep, husky voice.
“You and me should be together ’til the end.
So bye bye, baby, I can’t wait to see your smile again.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying!
Damian talks about the venue.
“Beautiful music hall, we are in… Victorian music hall… Simply stunning.”
I mean – look at this!
Hoxton Hall is a beautiful music hall. It feels very intimate because of its vertical structure – three floors with lovely, laced balconies on three sides. The hall has some interesting history as well: Built in the traditional music hall architecture style, it was an affordable venue to entertain the working classes with musical acts, circus and even performing dogs for a long time! Currently a charity, Hoxton Hall is run by a board of trustees and a staff team, and supported by volunteers.
Back to the gig…
“I once knew a fantastic lady…”
Here comes My Little One – a true celebration of the late great Helen McCrory!
My Little One is a happy song about who Helen is, a petite lady (“how does she look so tall? she is only 5 foot small”) who is formidable (“she punches like a heavyweight, could eat you up for breakfast”, “she growls like a hurricane”), loud (“how can she seem so loud? I can hear her in a crowd”), energetic (“how can she walk so fast?”), lovely (“she’s got a smile that’ll light the sky up”) and much more. And he loves her. Love grows, evolves, and changes shape over time. Life must go on, Damian will live on, and Helen will always be a part of him…
“Kitty Liv on the mouth organ.”
The next song Soho Tango is about a very first meeting. Two people walk in Soho in the wee hours, rolling cigarettes, telling jokes and talking… I often find myself singing this song at home…
“Giacomo Smith, ladies and gentlemen. Sax and clarinet player, and more than that, my producer…
Giacomo Smith is the leader of the Kansas Smitty’s House Band performing on both clarinet and alto saxophone. He composes extensively for Kansas Smitty’s releases. As a soloist, Smith performed at Jazz at Lincoln Centre in Nw York as well as Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican Centre in London. You can check his Instagram here.
Time for a cover!
“This is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Not one of mine.
It is Harvest Moon by Neil Young.
“Joe Webb on the piano. (In Welsh accent) My brother from another mother.”
A highly regarded pianist on the U.K. jazz scene, Joe Webb grew up in Wales and that is why Damian introduces “his brother from another mother” in a Welsh accent 🙂 Webb is a member of the Kansas Smitty’s House Band. You can check Joe Webb’s Instagram here.
As Damian announces that the next song is about spies, I completely agree with the audience member who shouts:
A Spy Among Friends is available for streaming on ITVX in the UK and has just premiered on MGM+ in the US. It is slow-cooking, captivating and elegant. Cinematic to a degree that I envy the viewers who could see the first two episodes on big screen at the BFI London Film Festival. There are time jumps so you need to pay attention – do not text and watch. ENJOY!
As someone who follows everything Damian quite closely, let me also give you a little trivia here: Never Judge A Man By His Umbrella is the title of a memoir written by former MI-6 Nicholas Elliott, the very man Damian is portraying in A Spy Among Friends!
Damian now covers an old classic from 1978. And oh my God he shakes the room with his performance of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London! In case you do not know the song, it is about a well-dressed womanizer, a ladies’ man, a werewolf preying on little old ladies. A perfect song for his voice. And look at our boy on stage – I already get Will Radley vibes from The Radleys, Damian’s next movie project about a middle class, suburban, vampire British family 🙂
“How about Will on the drums?”
Only 26 years old, Will Cleasby is a ridiculously talented drummer that will be going places. He is a member of the Kansas Smitty’s House Band. You can check Will’s Instagram here.
Damian now sits at the piano for a solo performance.
“If Harvest Moon is one of the most beautiful songs, this is one of the sweetest… it’s Tom Waits… early years.”
Here’s Little Trip to Heaven…
“How is everybody doing?”
“How you doin?” (Someone in the audience asks it like Joey from Friends would ask :D)
Damian says he is 10 out of 10.
“Just really enjoying myself.”
IT SO SHOWS, DAMIAN! AND WE LOVE IT!
This song is called “Wanna Grow Old in Paris… well, who doesn’t, right?”
Absolutely. But Damian once knew a fantastic lady who wanted to grow old in Paris…
Helen spent her teenage years in Paris because her dad was a diplomat there and witnessed chic Parisienne women attending parties and receptions at the residence. She once said:
I spent my teenage years in Paris when my dad was stationed there, and I’d look at women in their forties and think, ‘That’s the age I want to be.
Paris was also special for the two of them as a couple. Damian proposed to Helen on Pont Neuf back in 2006.
“One of those verses definitely wasn’t what I wrote but I enjoyed making it up… Will says it’s jazz.”
Spot on, Will! 🙂 But, seriously, isn’t jazz all about improvisation?
Damian now takes up the electro-guitar.
“You’re making plans??… (The audience: “Yeah.”) I thought so.”
Here is a snippet of Damian singing Makin’ Plans from Hellie’s camera – who is that red haired woman dancing like crazy in the front row? 😀
“Will Sach on two basses.”
Will Sach is a terrific bass player. You can check his Instagram here.
Talking about makin’ plans, one of the audience members who has made made plans is Darlene 🙂 She came from Long Island, New York with a sign that says…
She shows it to Damian between songs. He says…
And he adds:
“I was just over there. You should have flown back with me.”
Why, the penultimate song in the set list, is absolutely one of my favorites. I love the entire spectrum of jazz but I am so in love with the New Orleans sound. And as Giacomo Smith very rightly said on Instagram after the gig at The Tabernacle “a little Jelly Roll Morton always gets the crowd going.” Smith’s clarinet solo in Why is simply superb.
“We’ll leave the stage after this one, ladies and gentlemen. Sometimes people visit. Thank you all for visiting today.”
She Comes is a truly truly great song. And once you hear the lyrics, you immediately know who is sometimes visiting Damian…
She comes as a blackbird, she comes as a fox.
She sits at the window, she sings from a rock.
She’s the moon in the day and the sun that shines in the dark.
She rests in me and she rests in shade.
She’s my joy, she’s my pain and she rained on me.
When someone asked Steve Abbott, Damian’s manager, about what kind of music Damian plays on Twitter, this was his response.
Roots blues type of thing , JJ Cale ?
— abbo / Steve Abbott (@bedlambaby) July 8, 2022
So the encore of the evening comes from J. J. Cale – a song you may know as one that Eric Clapton sings. Cale wrote the song in 1966, Clapton covered it on his debut studio album in 1970 that made the song popular. And so J.J. Cale re-recorded it for his album Naturally in 1971 – the year Damian was born! It is After Midnight.
I grab the set list from the stage! And for your information, nobody stole the towel. Because there was none 🙂
Before I tell you about Damian’s time with the fans… It was incredibly sweet of Steve, Damian’s manager, to take pictures of the front row crowd with Damian during the gig. I mean… look at this! I shared this picture with my fellow front row fans and also with Damian via his PA. I mean the guy needs to know his groupies!!!
Damian first sees his guests in the green room, and then makes time for the fans in the bar area. He asks me:
“How are you doing this, Bahar?”
Well, I help with taking pictures with fans as he gives autographs and hugs 🙂
Here is Darlene having the printed picture she brought from the US signed by Damian with the exact words he said to her from the stage earlier…
Someone asks Damian about his upcoming album. He says the album will have his original songs and a few covers. And, he adds, the first single is coming out on March 24!!!
When it is my turn, I have my Hoxton Hall gig poster signed. Damian signs my stuff with “Tseku!” (“Tesekkur” or “Thank you” in Turkish) nowadays. Until recently, I was thinking he might have learnt the word on A Spy Among Friends set…
…but it seems the Brits are collectively learning Turkish these days 🙂 At the manicure salon on the day of the show, the lady who did my nails talked about the Turkish people she knew in her neighborhood as well as the Turkish TV shows she enjoyed!!! Then, at my hotel, a staff member caught me at the breakfast buffet just to say “Gunaydin. Nasilsiniz?” (or “Good Morning. How are you?” in Turkish) I was quite surprised since I am not used to hearing my native tongue from people that are not from Turkey. And she said she thought I was from Turkey based on my name and she knew a bit of Turkish thanks to the Turkish TV shows and she wanted to practice 🙂 OMG! Yes I know that Turkish TV shows have been making a lot of buzz all around the world from Latin America to Europe to Asia for the last couple of years. And now I am thinking that Damian may be into Turkish TV shows, too! 😀 😀 😀 I seriously doubt it but I just want to imagine it and laugh loudly!)
When I decided to go to London for Hoxton Hall gig, I had a custom mug made for Damian which you can see from different angles below. It has his gig picture and the first three London gigs’ locations and dates on it. This would be my only gift for Damian…
…but then things changed when Damian announced, only a few days before my flight to London, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that Bobby Axelrod would be back to Billions!
Ha! So come the extra gifts to properly celebrate The Return of the King: A Bobby Axelrod Funko Pop, a Gordon & McPhail Single Malt Scotch, and Single Malt Scotch Whisky truffles (he immediately notices they are from Fortnum and Mason :D) to go with the Scotch!
When I give him the Bobby Axelrod Funko Pop, I tell Damian that we knew he would return to Billions even before he was spotted on the set in London because…
“We knew you would return to Billions because you had the Bobby haircut.”
“I know. I’m reading the blog. You’re following very closely. “
He would not have made me happier if he had told he loved me 🙂 And yes we are following very closely from afar!
And the video you see below has been made out of the 95 (yes, 95!!!) images that Tsveti took during part of the gift giving ritual 🙂 I added the music and I think it goes very well with the video 🙂 And notice that, in addition to the gifts I have, I give Damian green socks with golf balls from Darlene and a Martenitsa (a traditional Bulgarian bracelet that would bring our guy health and happiness) from Tsveti!
Oh and talking about socks… Darlene asks Damian about his purple socks that we have recently seen him wear everywhere from his gigs, to the Keane screening at Film at Lincoln Center and even to his CBE ceremony! We ask whether he is wearing them today but his boots are tall enough to hide the socks 🙂
I am also so proud to finally have Tsveti with Damian in a shot because she is too shy that she has never been able to ask for a photo before… and so when Damian indicates he now has to leave to go out with his friends, I put my foot down and make sure everybody goes home HAPPY!
Damian blows us kisses as he leaves, and he takes the fridge magnet that Ellie, our London Spy, offers him. And I subconsciously intervene…
“But it’s not for you.”
(Damian gives it back): “It’s not for me.”
Ellie very kindly gives it to him and I am happy to report I have already put another magnet in the mail for her! I will make sure there will be more magnets at the next gig 🙂
Given that Damian and his band have now conquered South London (Omeara), West London (The Tabernacle) and East London (Hoxton Hall), the next London gig may actually happen in North London. And I will try my best to be there! Tesekkur, Damian. Till next time!