Review by Rob Johnson with Photography by Chris Selby

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Sam Duckworth, AKA Slam Dunkworth, AKA Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. He’s been around for a while and has never really matched the initial run of success he achieved with his lauded debut album The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager. Nevertheless, Duckworth clearly still has that elusive fire in his belly and a song in his heart and as an opening act he is both likeable and professional.

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Both, The Plot and War of the Worlds sound as vital as ever as Duckworth attacks his guitar in a rage of protest songs and heartfelt lyrics. I-Spy is a big miss from the set if I’m being picky (and I am) but Glasshouses rounds things off nicely and Duckworth leaves the stage to a crescendo of applause. Had Cape. Wore Cape. Strolled off.

And so, to one of Sheffield’s most beloved sons. A South Yorkshire troubadour that still has the fire and skill to make you laugh and cry in the space of a couple of verses and a chorus. Richard Hawley takes to the stage to the haunting tones of Al Bowlly’s The Very Thought of You and from there the Sheffield audience, his audience, are enraptured and enchanted by a set that never strays too far from the spellbinding.

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Off My Mind is a hypnotic and heady set opener, and as Hawley laments ‘you caused the heartbreak deep down in my soul’, a thousand romantics nod along in the Sheffield Octagon Centre. Hawley shares an intimate chemistry with his hometown audience, nipping any football tribalism in the bud by pointing out that both Wednesday and United fans both hate Leeds. Or as the man himself succinctly puts it ‘the pigeons fly upside down over Leeds because there is fuck all worth shitting on’. Quite.

The title track from Hawley’s well received musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge booms throughout the venue like a Nick Cave track drenched in Henderson’s Relish before Tonight the Streets Are Ours raises the roof. The band do justice to the lush instrumentation of Hawley’s songs and the enthusiastic string section ensure that these songs fill every last inch of space in this big old university building.

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Coles Corner and Emilina Says evoke the ‘60s Sheffield sound that Hawley loves so much without ever indulging in pointless nostalgia. When Hawley croons ‘I’m going downtown where there’s music’, the adoring Sheffield crowd can only agree. Loneliness hangs in the air but at least we are lonely together.

A pounding and soaring rendition of Is There A Pill closes out the first part of the set before Hawley returns for a triumphant and unforgettable run through of Heart of Oak. That riff. That quiff. This is Hawley in excelsis. One of the UKs most talented songwriters playing in the very beating heart of his city. To his people. The creaking foundations let out a deep sigh as Richard Hawley leaves the stage. He did it. We made it. The warm embrace of flickering lamplights awaits as the South Yorkshire throng spill out into the night. And just for tonight, it feels like the streets really are ours.

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