Review by Glenn Raybone. Pictures courtesy of Chris Saunders.

The 3 Ring Circus is the genius idea of having three artists, each playing three venues in the same city, curated by Sheffield’s very own Richard Hawley. The three artists being John Grant, Bill Ryder-Jones and Richard Hawley himself. The venues are The Upper Chapel, University Drama Studio and the Trafalgar Warehouse all in Sheffield. The plan is that the audience go to a specific venue and the artists perform, before jumping in a cab and going to another venue, thereby playing each. It’s a brilliant idea and on reflection was a beautiful and magical evening.


For myself I arrived at the Trafalgar Warehouse, I walked around the building three times, there are no names, numbers or signs or anything to indicate three great artists are due to play here but I asked someone and it seems I was in the right place. As door opening time arrived almost all people coming asked the same question “is this the warehouse?” and this despite a sizeable queue. It really is an old industrial warehouse in a back street.


Once inside the all seated venue it is a stark setting, with a simple stage at one end. I believe it is hired out for weddings and vintage fayres, but tonight it offers a perfect music venue. There is no advance notice of running order and it’s a sheer thrill that our first act is John Grant. Accompanied by his guitarist and keyboard maestro, John is his usual at-ease self, talking to you like he’s known you for years, and apologising for his glasses, which he soon removes as “they make my thighs look big”. A sublime set is executed, opening with “You don’t have to” the sound is perfect and you can hear every breath. All too soon we are told he’s run out of time, and his last song is ‘Glacier’ which is so beautiful it’s goose bump inducing, and with a quick thank you he’s off to his next venue. I have to admit to being a fan of John Grant and I was lucky to grab a set-list. The full glory was; You don’t have to // Marz // Grey Tickles Black Pressure // Sigourney Weaver // GMF // Glacier


A quick stage clearance and new set-up of a guitar and amps sees the arrival of Bill Ryder-Jones, who I have to embarrassingly admit to having not heard anything by him. He’s previously peddled his craft in The Coral, and is very relaxed, with a great rapport, telling us at the last venue he fell off the stool, and that we can now guess who our last act is tonight “win win”. He asks the audience for song suggestions and plays a few of these, but also says to some “there’s no way I can do that on me own”, opting to open with a new song “get along without you” or “untitled” as he feels he gets a mixed reception to the initial title. He’s a great raconteur and plays an amazing version of Super Furry Animals “Arnofio”, to which he apologies if there are any Welsh speaking people in the audience in case he gets the words wrong. The set ends again too shortly, but we are on a strict time schedule and “He took you in his arms” concludes a fabulous set. First job I have is to buy his back catalogue.

Finally, after an extended stage change, we are greeted by Richard Hawley, accompanied by Shez Sheriden, who asks if we’ve had a good time, a loud cheer the response. He opens with “As the dawn breaks”, and it’s an honour to witness such talent at a distance of six feet. I forget there are other people there and for the next thirty minutes it’s as if I’m the only person in the room. “Ashes on the fire”, “Tonight the streets are ours” are all beautiful songs and in this environment they soar, it is mesmerising. On “Nothing like a Friend” he uses a drum machine courtesy of Shez’s iphone “50 cent, 10 bob” and it’s truly brilliant. When I last saw Richard he was somewhat distracted as Sheffield Wednesday were playing a Cup gain against Arsenal (which they won) but tonight his pure concentration was on the music, and this brilliant event.
After much shouting from the audience he returns for an encore and says he feels bad as the other artists didn’t get to play one, but “then again I am from Sheff” and we have a magnificent version of “Heart of Oak”.
Tonight has been my gig of the year, and with about 20 coming up until 2016 takes a bow, I am confident none of those will come close. It has been a huge triumph and a genius idea to bring the artists to you, the audience. I was honoured to have been part of it.

One Response to “3 Ring Circus featuring John Grant, Bill Ryder-Jones and Richard Hawley in Sheffield, UK – 8th October 2016”

  1. graham Says:

    brilliant review – exactly how i felt and love the last line – encapsulates everything about the event – everyone was a part of it.

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