O2 Academy, Bristol
2nd October 2019
Richard Hawley croons into Bristol, Elfyn Griffith applies the brylcreem…
Richard Hawley could exist in any of the past six decades, his music spanning rockabilly and skiffle with authentic verve, and breezing through country, blues and shimmering grease-backed rock, reaching blissful heights and plunging into dark, seductive corners…he’s a man for all seasons and moods, let alone decades.
Hawley has proved his mettle and quality over eight albums in the past 18 years which has established his style and pedigree. His Orbison-ian vocals adding the sweet touch to his lush balladry and his rough-hewn growl to the raunchiest of Sun Records-like nostalgia.
You can take the lad out of Sheffield but you can never take Sheffield out of the lad. “Love you Richard!” yells somebody in the Bristol audience as he takes the stage tonight. “You don’t know me yet, we might be shite,” is his Yorkshire riposte.
It’s a warm riposte though, as the be-quiffed, be-denimed Hawley launches into the first track of his latest album Further with the howling guitars of Off My Mind. This is the full-on rock’n’roll to Hawley’s more traditional mellow moods, as demonstrated with the jaunty Alone next in line and the calming sweep of Further itself.
The first real spine-tingle of the evening comes with the atmospherically brooding Standing At the Sky’s Edge, photomontage of Sheffield’s grim tower block housing schemes projected in the background. Hawley gives it a Hendrix blast-out at the end. For a song about the violence of modern day living, he explains, “We come from a city of knives. Our grandfathers and fathers made them. Sorry about that. Ok, let’s skiffle…” and steps straight back into the 50’s with I’m Looking For Someone To Find Me.
He prefaces the heartbreak of Emilina Says with “If this song doesn’t physically bring you down then fuck all will”, and then it’s the gorgeous gush of Tonight The Streets Are Ours.
That’s the thing about Hawley, the myriad moods he captures on a blur of guitars, – this gig must take the biscuit for the number of between-song guitar changes for himself and also for his erstwhile guitarist Shez Sheridan and bassist Collin Elliot – and while there’s a slight sameness to tunes mid-set there’s always a twist or delicious turn to get the tingling emotions back on track.
The sweeping Waitsian keyboard string-effect intro to his classic Coles Corner gets the biggest cheer of the night, and the majestic blues stroll of Midnight Train and rolling joy of Galley Girl prove that the rhythms carry afresh and as powerful into the new album, 99% of which is played here.
Open Up Your Door and Is There A Pill have epic qualities and Hawley’s rock-out indulgences you feel are deserved, no more so than in the final number Heart Of Oak. No charlatan he, but a bona-fide guitarist and songwriter of rare breed.
Guinness aloft he and the band stroll back on for an encore of the thematic, Bond-ish, There’s a Storm-a Comin’ and the echoing Stooges throb (pure 1969 power chords here) of Down In The Woods. It’s a strobed, psychedelic, end to a set of addictive angles. Overlong maybe, but again the man has earned his stripes.
Pure Sheffield steel…
Rest of the tour dates
06/10 O2 Academy Oxford
07/10 Albert Hall Manchester
08/10 Liverpool University
10/10 02 Institute Birmingham
11/12. 10 Octagon Centre, University of Sheffield
14/10 Northumbria Institute, Newcastle
15/10 Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow
17/10 Roundhouse, London
18/10 Brighton Dome, Brighton
Words by Elfyn Griffith
Live photography (don’t use without permission please) by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive. He can be found on Facebook and is currently revamping his website…