Jacob Hoggard, frontman for the rock group Hedley, performs during the band’s concert in Halifax on Friday, February 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Hedley returns to the stage with no apologies

Hedley returns with no apologies, sexually-charged banter in first concert since hiatus announcement

Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard refused to soften his band’s frat boy persona on Thursday as they played their first show since announcing plans for an “indefinite hiatus” in the wake of recent sexual assault and misconduct allegations.

The singer didn’t spend any time acknowledging the apology he issued a day earlier on social media for what he called “reckless and dismissive” treatment of women throughout his career.

Instead, Hoggard paused for a moment to thank fans for their unwavering support but spent more time playing into the band’s trademark antics with thinly veiled sexual innuendoes.

None of it appeared to faze the Brampton, Ont. crowd who filled about two-thirds of the 5,000-seat venue and responded with enthusiastic cheers.

At one point in the show Hoggard encouraged fans to hold the hand of a friend next to them and profess their interest in having the other person serve them “breakfast.”

“Because, baby, you’re my most important meal of the day,” Hoggard added, which seemed to imply oral sex.

“I don’t know what that means. I just made it up. Ow!” he added before quickly moving on.

Related: Hedley to take ‘indefinite hiatus’ after tour

During another break in the set he called out a young woman near the front who he saw texting during his performance. He jokingly confiscated her phone and rifled through the contacts, stopping briefly on one labelled “Dad.”

“Who’s dad?” Hoggard asked. “Dad? Is that what you call him?”

He then asked whether her father was in the audience.

“He’s here? Of, course he’s here,” he said before flipping through the names further and settling on the fan’s aunt. He gave her a quick phone call to the excitement of the audience.

Those moments were in contrast to a statement by Hedley on Wednesday which promised to “take a long hard look in the mirror” and do some “soul-searching” in response to their past behaviour.

A 24-year-old Ottawa fan of the band alleged to the CBC that she was sexually assaulted by Hoggard after chatting with him on the dating app Tinder and agreeing to meet him at a hotel in Toronto. Hoggard’s lawyer Brian Shiller said in a statement that the woman and the Hedley frontman had “made a mutual plan to get together to have sex and they did just that.”

Katie Summers, a radio host in Calgary, came forward on Wednesday with a new sexual misconduct allegation saying Hoggard made a comment after an interview about performing oral sex on him before grabbing her buttocks.

The group’s members responded saying they were “truly sorry, as individuals and as a band, to anyone who has been negatively affected by our behaviour” and added they decided to continue on with their 15 scheduled concerts for the sake of their crew and others who “depend on this tour for their livelihood.”

Hoggard also released his own statement saying he has “never engaged in non-consensual sexual behaviour,” but acknowledged he “behaved in a way that objectified women” and was “reckless and dismissive of their feelings.”

Fans outside the venue before the concert said they were standing by their band unless they saw evidence they considered more reliable.

Israel Sitzer said she planned to scream louder than ever in support of Hedley.

“I think you’re innocent until proven guilty,” the Scarborough, Ont. resident said.

“So I hold onto that because I know what it’s like to be accused of something you didn’t do. Especially when (Hoggard says in his apology), ‘Oh, I’ve objectified women’ … every rocker has, on a more real note. Until something comes out that says he did it or he’s guilty of it, I’m going to support him.”

Another fan named Audrey weighed the possibility of skipping the concert after she bought tickets long before the allegations surfaced. She decided since she’d already paid for seats, she might as well stick with plans to attend the show with her mother as a chaperone.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have bought the tickets if I knew about the accusations,” Audrey said, declining to give her last name on her mother’s advice.

“Tonight it’s about the music.”

Related: Concert-goers unfazed by Hedley sexual misconduct allegations

Near the end of the concert Hoggard seemed to subtly acknowledge the worsening storm of recent weeks, which saw Hedley’s management sever ties, radio stations pull their music and one venue cancel plans to host an upcoming concert. Some fans have also requested refunds for their tickets.

Hoggard thanked the audience for “believing and standing behind us” and said that “sometimes life sucks.”

“If you didn’t show up here we couldn’t play here. You’re the reason we fight, the reason we sing,” he said.

The singer also promised this wouldn’t be the last time Hedley would visit Brampton, suggesting the hiatus will indeed be temporary.

As the show ended, Public Enemy’s “Don’t Believe the Hype” played over the auditorium speakers as the crowd filed out.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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