Richard Hawley – The Albert Hall, Manchester
Date: 7th October 2019
The Sheffield songster literally packs out his favourite venue, the Albert Hall. Not even standing room as he goes through the card with his Further album.
It’s a sign of how much Richard Hawley rates his latest album when he plays the lot – almost – ten of eleven songs making up the bulk of a grand evening soundtracked by his romantically lush music. The shift from the usual sweep of strings and rich vocals to focus on shorter songs in his aim to seek and write the perfect three (or four) minute song has resulted in what will surely come to rank as his most satisfying work.
As he takes to the stage in his regulation double denim (didn’t David Brent say “always double denim”) the Further tour hits Manchester, his faithful band of brothers accompany him on the journey.
It’s one where he rocks – Off My Mind is a cobweb destroyer of an opening blast where he opens his mouth and utters “Reasons to get excited.” Similarly, Time Is finds him joined as usual by Manchester lad Clive Mellor blowing a mean harp, while Down In The Woods sees him set off on a psychedelic guitar exploration. Don’t it feel good? Sure does.
Not only does he rock but he rolls – as he declares his love for the Galley Girl and the overdriven string fest of Is There A Pill that closes the main set. He also swings and sways with the gentle rocking of Midnight Train and possibly the highlight of an outstanding album, Emilina Says.
I’m Looking For Someone To Find Me and Tonight The Streets Are Ours both shimmer and sparkle at a lively pelt and as he sings “Don’t be cruel…” on the former, you half expect him to follow up with “to a heart that’s true.” We’ve had Elvis and the Big ‘O’ but now we have Richard and as a bonus, he’s a Northerner and we can just about forgive him for being from across the Pennines.
Ultimately though, it’s hard to better the communal love-in as he’s thankfully re-introduced the totally exquisite Coles Corner back into the fold before he again croons away on the non-album track There’s A Storm A Comin’ suggesting we’d better run before unwrapping one of those gorgeously melting solos from one of his army of guitars. It offers a brooding alternative that together with Standing At The Sky’s Edge declare an ominous intent; harbingers of doom and it barely needs any political or social comment. It was just a shame he didn’t crank out his version of Dylan’s Ballad Of A Thin Man that recently graced Peaky Blinders. Nitpicking as not even those who crammed themselves into the spaces to worship a master of his art in the former chapel could have any complaints on the musical front.
Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.