Live Review: Richard Hawley, Derby Assembly Rooms (01/10/12)

Whisper it: the Richard Hawley bug is catching. Hawley has always had a loyal fanbase, however thanks to his mercury-nominated latest album ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ he is slowly garnering himself more and more fans. Several of these new fans, alongside the loyal fans that have followed Hawley throughout his ten-year solo career, crowded into Derby’s Assembly rooms this week for a night of scintillating music.

The reasons that Richard Hawley’s gig was such a success were threefold. The first one was very clear from the moment that opener ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ reached its stunning climax: the sheer atmosphere created by Hawley and his backing band. The whole band synchronised perfectly to create a wonderful sound that reverberated beautifully through the Assembly Rooms. This is particularly clear on tracks from Hawley’s latest album that seems made for times like this. The most wonderful moment of atmosphere from the concert came from ‘Down in the Woods’, where the full band combined for five minutes of instrumental joy at the song’s climax.

Richard Hawley added to this superb musicianship with good-natured humour the like of which I’ve never seen on stage before. It is no secret that Hawley is a funny person, but who would have thought that he could produce such humour on the spot? Some of the heckles that were produced by the audience would have made most musicians crumble under the pressure of a live show, however Richard Hawley seemed to thrive on it.

No matter what was thrown at him, he threw something twice as funny back; exactly what the world’s finest stand ups do. “How many guitars have you got”, yelled an audience member for the third consecutive time, referring to his elaborate selection of instruments; without even thinking, Hawley quips: “Some musicians have a plant in the audience; I just have a f**king Cabbage”. It was humour like this that complemented the music perfectly and added a new dimension to this concert.

Finally the reason why the gig was such a success is no secret and has always been considered Richard Hawley’s strongest weapon: his voice. “It’s like chocolate” I heard an audience member next to me remark and there are few better fitting analogies. His voice has luscious and rich tendencies, like the finest Swiss chocolate that you wish to savour. Away from this analogy and back into reality and his voice sounds most like the tragically deceased Andy Williams, with the deep baritones that come with it. This voice combined with the exceptional music of Hawley and his backing band to lead to atmospheric perfection in Derby Assembly Rooms.

The only fault in a nigh on flawless night was the notable absence of the best exposition of Hawley’s voice: 2005’s ‘Coles Corner’. However this is a much more orchestral piece and may not have fitted in with the heavier music on offer. Aside from this though Richard Hawley successfully provided the audience with superb entertainment and must have inched his way into pole position for the hotly contested 2012 Mercury Prize award. He was closely inched out by Arctic Monkeys in 2006; just  now there seems to be the feeling that it is Richard Hawley’s time to both win the Mercury Prize and begin an assault on the mainstream, where he so deserves to be better recognised.

Liam Coleman

…Liam has been listening to Dog is Dead – Get Low…

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