John Hegley wears glasses. They are the thick-framed type that combine with his quiff to give him a slightly Morrissey-esque, Eighties-student look. As he gets older, this style seems to be morphing into something a bit more like a schoolteacher. He comes on stage with a nice red Fender Telecaster strung over his shoulder, accompanied by a small rock band, including two backing singers/saxophonists who look like Liberal Democrat MPs.
John Hegley is proud of his glasses. After the first three or four numbers, I was concerned that the entire set was going to be about them. But thankfully, he does diversify into poems and songs about Guillemots, Amoebae, and Jesus.
John Hegley has a fabulously deadpan vocal delivery when he's singing, delivering his poems, or tackling hecklers (who last night included, I'm ashamed to say, your Daily Info reviewer, who was brutally rebuffed when requesting the song 'The Famous Hats of Luton'.) I'm trying to work out if his performing voice has dropped an octave, a bit like Lenoard Cohen's did in the Eighties.
His poems and songs transmit a real joy for finding words that scan and rhyme, and also a love of repetition. Particularly of the word glasses. My sole gripe about his set was that it was a bit too short.
Very honourable mention must go to the support act, Oxford's own poetry/reggae/world music collective 'Inflatable Buddha'. They were great. Frontman Steve Larkin sings, performs poetry, uses his mandolin as an electric guitar, and pulls lots of funny faces. Highlights last night included a reggae number sung by their double-bass player, Susanna Starling, and a version of the Bee Gees' 'I Started a Joke' – not quite up there with Faith no More, but still pretty cool.
Inflatable Buddha's EP 'The Red EP' (first in a series of several) is now available via www.myspace.com/inflatablebuddha.