A CD plays as Luke Haines steps into Resident Records shop in Brighton for a pre Hanbury Club mini acoustic warm show. “Kill the music, because that’s what I’m about to do,” he announces with a wry smile. It sums Haines up perfectly - witty, funny, knowing and eccentrically miserable. He’s carved himself a neat niche which has endeared him to an audience since the early nineties when his original band The Auteurs almost made it. Their biggest two singles hit forty one and forty two in the charts respectively and they were allegedly runner up in the Mercury Music prize for New Wave. Fifteen years on and Haines is now being lauded by a number of critics as one of Britain’s greatest and most under rated singer songwriters. When he ends his set at Resident Records with the line “Life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it,” and then adds afterwards “That’s an inappropriate ending if ever there was one,” we’re inclined to agree with those critics.
It seems that so are many others. The Hanbury Ballroom is very busy and the reception Haines receives is warm and friendly - the conquering hero returns again. Placing a glass of red wine to one side his band launch into a career spanning set with a song that Haines acknowledges will be the happiest he sounds all night - the gentle Suburban Mourning. It’s a ballad where the loathing biliousness is laid aside as Haines sings in his soft murmur of a voice of couples getting married, a missing child being found alive and “There’s no evil in the everyday, just good honest people who pay and pay.” It’s as close as Haines gets to bringing the sunshine. It’s followed by the stop start indie of The Auteurs Show Girl a song which demonstrates that Haines has always been an accomplished guitarist as well as a lyricist to be heralded. “I’m Luke Haines, thank you and goodnight,” he states cheekily after those two numbers. A career in stand up could possibly follow.
Dressed in a suit and sporting a carefully coiffured down-turned moustache Haines takes his audience on a journey of murder songs such as Freddie Mills Is Dead, waffling rants linking Gary Glitter and Ricky Gervais fans, through to the should-have-been-a hit-but-wasn’t rock riffage of the self proclaimed meta-Motown-Dad genius Lenny Valentino. At the end his encore lasts all of ten seconds as Haines decides it is too much hassle to leave the stage. He just carries straight on, such is the perverse and almost disobedient nature of the man. It is this personality and character that people love as much as his songs, particularly in the live environment, but never let it be said that he doesn’t have the tunes to back up the persona. Luke Haines shows Brighton that he may have not won the Brit Pop war with The Auteurs, but that sometimes the losers are the real long term winners.