John Peel Centre
Many good singers develop their talent and succeed only to be overcome by the demons the lurk with fame. For some it is drink, some drugs and others despair. For many it is all three.
Kaz Hawkins seems to have done all that first. She lost her youth to abuse, her children to foster care, her dignity to cocaine. Only her love of music saw her through, even when an abusive partner cut her throat to stop her singing.
This brutally honest woman from Belfast tells her story openly. Not to seek sympathy. No, hers is a message of hope. She is an incredibily positive individual, a strong woman in so many ways yet nervous on stage and prone to the giggles.
Her saviour from despair was music. She is blessed with an amazing voice, the ability to write songs and a stage presence that leaves you in no doubt that Kaz is in the house.
Currently touring the UK for the first time, the band found their sea legs en route to the Sheltlands. They lost their keyboard player on day one. Twenty minutes into England their tour bus was involved in an acccident which led to the cancellation of the show in Milton Keynes. But little things like that don’t stop Kaz Hawkins and her Band of Men.
I had the brief pleasure of being Kaz Hawkins’ minder and as we walked arm in arm to a local restaurant before the show (to find her band who were seeking out sustanance.) This bubbly granny from Belfast has an amazing ability to recall fans from their social media postings. “Oh, aren’t you…?” she would ask of people she met before the show.
And her show did not dissapoint. Singing her own brand of down and dirty blues, developed from her time as a young girl with a hairbrush microphone in her bedroom, she wowed the audience with her vocals and engaged them with her stories.
Listen to her vocal range in “Hallelujah Happy People” and you will realise you are in the presence of a very special person. The song that first got her noticed in Belfast, “Lipstick and Cocaine”, is not the product of some songwriters imagination. It is written from first hand experience. But then all the best songs are.
Fully aware of the connection between John Peel and her home town of Belfast, where there are murals depicting John, she dedicated “Because You Love Me” to John and the people who run the centre in his name – a gesture not lost on the volunteers.
Despite having cracked ribs, she found time for a wee dance with the girls in the audience, gave her all in all her numbers and finsihed with the heartfelt “Walking on my Own”. This lady may have had a bad start in life, but with her attitude and, above all her voice, she has a bright future.
Stowmarket was smitten on Saturday night by this woman who some say was born black but was turned white by the Irish weather. A class act which you have to see live, you will come home happier and more positive about life because of the experience.
You can catch the rest of Kaz Hawkins’ UK tour if you are quick:
- Tonight, Sunday, she plays Lichfield Arts Centre in Staffordshire
- 25th September – Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham
- 26th September – Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London
- 27th Sptember Hemel Hempstead Town Hall