Wednesday, 19 June, 2024 in Live Reviews, Music

Into Live Music Review: Richard Hawley 

Concert: Richard Hawley 
Venue: Edinburgh Usher Hall
Date: 3 June 2024

In a past life I was a detective, and whilst not in the same league as the literary invention of one time Sheffield resident Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I’ve attempted to transfer my Holmesian investigative skills into eliciting the secrets behind and within music. The messages and sentiments buried deeply in lyrics, unusual chord patterns and the sounds created by unconventional instruments have fascinated me since childhood. In ‘The Adventures of the Mazarin Stone’ the great sleuth fools his enemies into thinking he was playing Offenbach on his Stradivarius violin, when in fact he was miming to a record from his collection. Sherlock was a record collector AND a detective! Who’d have imagined I’d have so much commonality with Conan Doyle’s creation.

Sheffield is famous for many reasons, particularly its steel, football and the Crucible Theatre and also produces half the world’s surgical tools, (The Blades is also the nickname for the city’s United team) which save countless lives every day. It seems befitting that Richard Hawley cuts a dash of timeless style, and his music performs open heart surgery with a lyrical dexterity and an enthralling vintage sound.

The captivating evening opened with the dynamic She Brings the Sunlight with Richard and his remarkable band of crack musicians wringing emotion and melancholy from every beautiful note. The audience were immediately spellbound with the lushly arranged pair of songs from his latest critically acclaimed album In This City They Call You Love. Two For His Heels and Prism In Jeans harmoniously twisting melody with profundit. Richard’s rich baritone coupled with the flawlessly intricate artistry of his immaculately turned out band complemented one other in a warm tapestry of dark, jangling music.

Standing in front of an assortment of vintage and boutique style amps, the band were assigned different classic guitars for each song. Such six-string pornography would bring the most devout enthusiast to his knees in worship. It appears as if the concert is replicating the recording process with a degree of precision seldom witnessed. With more pedals on the stage than the starting line at the ‘Tour De France’ each effect sumptuously added to the emotion of the song, creating a velvety orchestral sound.

As the audience boomed their approval, the widescreen sound (David Lean would have approved) swirled throughout this famous old venue. Standing At The Sky’s Edge soared soulfully as the psychedelic light show framed the performers. There was lashings of reverb added to the refined sound of slower paced rockabilly melodies and twangy ballads with a modern twist on 50’s and 60’s song structures. Richard’s warm and genuine interactions between the songs created an intimacy not often achieved in such a large auditorium and his gratitude for our attendance was obviously sincere.

The outburst of elation as the first notes of Tonight The Streets Are Ours rang out created a tsunami of affection and I swore I could sense a shared collective quickening of heartbeats. Richard’s voice was front and centre as he crooned (Morrissey-ishly) from behind his dark shades and perfectly Brylcreamed quiff. This virtuoso performance pulled the audience into a seductive embrace as he set the controls for the heart (of the ‘Sun Records’). Coles Corner and particularly Don’t Stare At The Sun, punctuated with a paint removing guitar solo, filled the hall with baroque pop bliss while rumbling Gretsch guitars reverberated in the background. The audience bellowed their approval, energetically begging for more. This was turning into something exceptional indeed.

A stripped down encore brought raw passion and exposed the vulnerability in Richard’s voice, delivering genuine soul and heartfelt emotion. A feather dropping from the ceiling onto the floor would have sounded like an explosion. Setting free his pristine crooning voice this mightily plush song proceeded to seep into every corner of the room.

The new songs in tonight’s set brought admiration from the audience whilst the time tested treasured older material illuminated Richard’s star quality. He proudly wears his badge of nostalgic loyalty and displays his influences from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean through the spectrum of his Sheffield upbringing. There’s romance and realism in his work, words as sharp as the cutlery made in his home city, but with a tenderness and seduction of a wounded 50’s movie icon. Many of Richard’s past records have sourced the fire and forges from Sheffield but within these themes there lies a truth, humanity and love that’s rich.

Fans trickled out into the mild night onto Lothian Road murmuring their approval for a genuinely special evening.

George Orwell once said in 1937, “Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World.” Well George, much has changed since you wrote this unflattering review. It’s a vibrant beautiful musical city and Richard Hawley’s resonant baritone, yearning melodies and meditative music builds upon the proud heritage of his city, adding to it’s enduring textured legacy.

Colin Steer




















































































































































































































































































































































































































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