As we know, Mr Hawley doesn’t like ‘the “c” word’. No not THAT one which he uses to describe a persistent drunk heckler tonight but the one rhyming with moon that Bing Crosby was famous for. Which to be fair is understandable to those who’ve seen him live where he’s a far more feral beast than bequiffed smoothie. Then again, as the T-shirts at the merch stall proclaim ‘Let’s Ballad’ if the shirt fits etc.
The response to Richard’s latest ‘Hollow Meadow’ has been muted with a feeling that it’s a bit of a step backwards from the noisy, cathartic psychedelic sprawl of ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’s cry of pain. However it merely reaffirms the constants of Hawley’s worth, those of love, trust and acceptance of human frailties. The hopefully, jangly pop of ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ nestles next to the brooding SATSE title track in a set that skilfully moves from loud-quiet-loud.
Richard has this old engine turning shed eating out of his mitt from the off – his ribald jokes, easy going northern charm and modesty. Few others could ask a 1000+ crowd to stand in a minute silence for Remembrance Sunday and not have some wazzock breaking the silence – truly an extraordinary moment.
Likewise the reverse psychology of asking people to talk through the quieter numbers ensured a rapt response to tracks like ‘Open Up The Door’ from his masterpiece ‘Truelove’s Gutter’ and ‘What Love Means’ dedicated to his daughter’s imminent 21st birthday.
The show moves ‘Down In the Woods’ to become a forest version of Willy Wonka’s boat ride with Hawley reciting nursery rhymes over a queasy eerie metallic drone, repeating the ‘Life is but a dream’ refrain from ‘Row, Row Your Boat’ . The towering oaks on the backdrop and effective lighting create a nightmarish vibe as the band increase the volume and Hawley’s guitar screams and echoes round the walls.
Had “one of those” behind me – the type that loudly claps the first notes of every tune to show “I KNOW WHAT THIS SONG IS BEFORE YOU DO”. In the trade they are known a ‘Layla Unplugged Liars’
The encore brings out the lush ‘Coles Corner’ to clear away the clouds before the rain comes down by ‘The Ocean’ ending with guitars squalling like seabirds as the storm rages. There’s so much more to Richard Hawley than the 50’s throwback that lazy journos paint him as – he’s just as likely to chill you as soothe you.