wed 13/11/2019

Richard Hawley, Barrowland, Glasgow - black clad crooner's songs remain full of atmosphere and heart | reviews, news & interviews

Richard Hawley, Barrowland, Glasgow - black clad crooner's songs remain full of atmosphere and heart

Richard Hawley, Barrowland, Glasgow - black clad crooner's songs remain full of atmosphere and heart

The singer was in playful form at the Barrowland

Richard Hawley, performing cinematic songs with vivid character

When Richard Hawley arrived onstage, he had a confession to make. “I like to talk”, he declared, before adding “and play rock n’ roll”. Both were delivered in ample supply during the ensuing performance, the black clad quiff wearing troubadour a natural fit for one of Scotland’s most famed rock n’ roll locations.

Yet if the Sheffield native’s persona of a somewhat bruised crooner can flourish in his songs, then his regular chatter tended towards the lighter side. Anecdotes regarding his manager being asked if he had Viagra outside the venue, declarations that he fancied a move to Scotland given the state of the world and, most rapturously received of all, stating that he “would rather rub s*** on my hands and clap than ever vote Tory” all flowed out during between song chat, indicating a jovial looseness to Hawley’s overall attitude. 

The music was tight, however, from the direct punch of opener “Off My Mind” to the waves of guitar that pushed “Further”, the title track of this year’s new album, along. The 52-year-old is skilled at both chunky rockers that reverberated around the hall and more delicate material, with his latest work shying towards the former more than the latter. In truth, there was a little too much of the heavy stuff at points, with some guitar heroics being overdone in places, notably a meandering “Don’t Stare At The Sun” and the encore’s lengthy “There’s A Storm Comin’”. When Hawley joked that he used to be able to perform like all night, you were glad it was just an attempt at humour, because he is at his most interesting when the noise has something else to bounce off. 

This is relatively minor quibble though, because Hawley presents cinematic songs with vivid character. Material from his newest record made up a sizable portion of the set, and indicated a man who still has plenty to say after eight records, whether about himself or on a wider scale. There was contemplation on the rattling reverb-infused “Midnight Train” and accomplished balladry on "Emiliana Says", inspired by the Pankhurst sisters. These held their own alongside old favourites like "Coles Corner", Hawley’s vocal rich and effective. 

Hawley’s best work contains substantial atmosphere and heart. The latter ran through the bittersweet lyrics accompanying the jaunty strum of “I’m Looking For Someone To Find Me” and the swoon of “Tonight The Streets Are Ours”, while the former was loudly represented on the totemic rhythms powering “Standing At The Sky’s Edge” and the burning psychedelia of “Down In The Woods”. His backing band were predictably excellent, with particular mention going towards Clive Mellor, who provided vibrant bursts of harmonica from time to time.

Best of all was "Time Is", reflecting on ageing to a bluesy, hand clap and harmonica heavy din. The passing of the years is showing no signs of diminishing Hawley’s own powers, and long may that continue.

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