Ben Hazlewood At The Viper Room, Sunday February 26th 2017
Finalist on The Voice Australia, Ben Hazlewood, was part of the Passport Approved lineup at the Viper Room on Sunday night, and none of the artists seemed to care about the fact that an Oscar night has to be one of the tougher nights for performers.
Passport Approved, which was created by British-born/Los Angeles-based DJ Sat Bisla, is an independent internationally syndicated tastemaker import radio show that airs on many stations across the U.S. and around the world, including KROQ here in Los Angeles. The show has launched hundreds of international artists such as Lorde, Kongos, Tove Lo, Bastille, John Newman, Frank Turner, Lily Allen, Gin Wigmore, The Temper Trap, Gotye, LMFAO, Wolfmother, San Cisco, The Ting Tings,… and even Adele, so you may easily understand the appeal.
New Zealand native Ben Hazlewood was playing just after Madyx, from North America, and before Finland-artist Katéa, and finally Speaker First from Indonesia, so it was a unique occasion to check out bands from all over the world.
Madyx was a young ball of fire with a cute blonde mohawks, and I can see why she has said she got her inspiration from Pink, Katy Perry, Melissa Etheridge and Brody Perry to write her pop song, she covered Awolnation, was absolutely restless on stage and her howls were more than convincing.
Katéa, a new (to me) songstress from Finland, brought a Lana Del Rey vibe to the room, while her deep voice with a rawer edge was beautifully serving her experimental guitar-synth pop, while adding a lot of sex appeal and sultriness. Her single from her ‘Louder’ EP reached the Top 50 most viral songs in Finland, while the catchy and swelling orchestrated ‘That Ain’t Love’ has received tens of thousands of streams on Spotify.. With such a start, she is probably bound for international success.
You would probably not expect to get such a thunderous rock blues sound from a distant country like Indonesia,… but why not after all? Speaker First’s singer couldn’t travel because of a visa problem, probably due to our current insane government, but it didn’t stop the band, ‘The show must go on,’ they said, and they gave us a terrific and raucous set, as the matter of fact, they rocked so hard and so loud that the Sunset strip wouldn’t certainly have disowned them. They sounded like the Indonesian Led Zeppelin/the Who/ Motorhead, with guitar riffs piling at the top of each other and some cool rock arena moves.
If you followed the Voice in Australia, you have heard of talented independent singer-songwriter Ben Hazlewood, he was a finalist in 2012 with Ricky Martin, Kylie Minogue occupying the coaches’ chairs, and you will understand why when you hear him live: As soon as he starts, his powerhouse takes the stage in full force, with synth-pop songs and a stadium rock potential.
Wearing a large fur coat during the first songs, as a gangster rapper would do, he revealed himself as extremely passionate in his delivery, and with his dramatic stage presence, he obviously had a rock star envy. But why wouldn’t he? His song ‘Wanted’, that he sings with a light R&B touch in his angst-driven lush vocals, got more than a million hits on Spotify!
The set was a series of high-energy howls, sang at the top his lungs over hard-hitting drums and poppy hooks, and his expressive pop songs were going from dark synth to giant soulful rock anthems. Surrounded by a back up singer and musicians on guitar, synth and drums, the mood was emotive and forceful all set long, as if Ben Hazlewood was using all the power he could to be able to go through the pain and the heartbreak.
As the son of a singer, he started writing music when he was just a young teenager, and after a debut album, ‘Loveless’ released in 2013, he dropped ‘Vanta’ last year, which includes many radio-ready pop-rock songs
He even sang his latest and not-yet-released single, ‘Sail Away’, which he describes as ‘a journey of letting go’ and did tear down the place with a last song ‘Stay Tonight’, sung with the same mix of confidence and passion, pouring so much emotion in the vocals, that I understood one thing: Ben Hazlewood’s delivery is so poignant that he undoubtedly wants you to deeply connect with his music, that he wants you to sing his songs at the top of your voice.