Gig Review by Toni Woodward with Photography by Stephanie Colledge

Richard Hawley

Richard Hawley takes to the stage and gives an enthusiastic thumbs up to the welcoming audience before playing the first of the evening’s songs, Which Way, that is taken from his recent album, Hollow Meadows. From the outset, it is evident that this is going to be a special gig as the sound flowing through the venue has a richness rarely heard. Hawley draws the song to a close by using the head of his guitar to conduct the other four members of the band to ensure a clean finish before the reason for his cheerful mood is divulged. It turns out that Hawley’s beloved Sheffield Wednesday are beating Arsenal 3 – 0 and his son is currently watching the match so he dedicates an older track, Tonight The Streets Are Ours, to him.

Richard HawleyRichard Hawley

Richard Hawley has the ability to tap into the essence of the crooners from yesteryear whilst keeping the music relevant and this nostalgic influence re emerges through many of his songs and is what Hawley became recognised for. Between tracks, a member of the audience provides updates on the football scores as Hawley keeps his guitar tech busy, regularly changing guitars ensuring the tone of each instrument suits the song which reiterates his ear for the subtleties.

Richard Hawley

Standing At The Sky’s Edge is the title track from Hawley’s previous album and it is this, and songs from his latest album, that make up the majority of tonight’s set. The epic and atmospheric nature of the song is enhanced by use of the oversized lamps in the backdrop which brighten in line with the accentuated beats of the refrain. The distorted guitar solos contrast beautifully with the smoothness of the vocal line and the syncopated rhythm of the drums, produced by Dean Beresford, resulting a spine tingling, mesmerising live performance. Hawley has constructed a fantastic band and he is emphatic that they are a band even though it is his name on the ticket; Colin Elliot on bass, Shez Sheridan on guitar, John Trier on keyboards and Charlie Beresford appears at times to add violin to the proceedings which she does for I Still Want You. This love song has an element of naivety as the lyrics tell a story in a comparable way to Elvis Costello or Lloyd Cole, drawing you into the sentiment of the music.

Richard Hawley

The tempo increases with Leave Your Body Behind You, demonstrating the effective nature of the backing harmonies and as the pace slows down, midway through the the song, the vocal delay adds a further dimension to the sound as it culminates in a rumbling of distorted bass and feedback. Hawley’s interaction with the audience remains in the football vein as he shares his nervousness that Arsenal may turn the match around, however, his fears are allayed by the helpful man providing further updates. The new songs are well received by the near sell-out crowd and fit seamlessly with Richard Hawley’s more established work, seen with the sweeter sounding Sometimes I Feel that illustrates his ability to produce simplistic yet powerful songs as the ending draws on The Who and sees him swap to from acoustic to electric. After Tuesday PM and Open Up Your Door, Hawley moves into what, for me, is the highlight of the set Time Will Bring You Winter segueing into Down Into The Woods. The syncopated rhythm of the drums brilliantly conflicting with the vocal line creating a psychedelic whirl in which to lose yourself before the change of tempo and driving riff of the monstrous Down Into The Woods. The venue reverberates with the strength of this song, the pounding drumbeat whilst Hawley weaves distorted patterns throughout on the guitar. The eeriness of the song is enhanced by the vocal delay and his use of children’s songs including the Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Row, Row Your Boat as a single spotlight from behind shrouds Hawley in light, before the riff kicks back in for the final section of the track. The only words to describe those fifteen minutes are, utterly awesome.

Richard Hawley

Don’t Stare At The Sun returns the set to a more sedate pace, drawing the main bulk of the performance to a close with Heart Of Oak, which isn’t enough for the enraptured audience and after a quick exit the band return with What Love Means. Hawley describes the song as gentle and by the silence that prevails throughout the venue the audience embrace the delicacy of the music and demonstrate the respect that they have for Mr Hawley as a performer. Now that Sheffield Wednesday have secured the win, Hawley sincerely thanks the audience for making the effort for coming out to watch him and buying his work plus a special mention is given to the man who has been keeping him informed of the scores.

Richard HawleyRichard Hawley

The Ocean is the final song of the night which is a popular choice and illustrates how Hawley is nostalgic yet keeping the music modern whilst oozing passion that makes him unique. I am not overly keen on extended displays of guitar prowess yet Richard Hawley is such an accomplished player that he knows precisely what the song requires, enhancing the track and allowing the listener to fully engage with the experience not just his skill. I have never been fortunate enough before to see Richard Hawley live before and I was truly blown away; it was phenomenal. This was up there for one of the best gigs of the year. Fantastic!

Set List:
Which way
Tonight the streets are ours
Standing at the sky’s edge
I still want you
Leave your body behind you
Sometimes I feel
Tuesday pm
Open up your door
Time will bring you winter
Down in the woods
Don’t stare at the sun
Heart of oak

What love means
The ocean

Leave a Reply