Thursday, 27 September 2012

Richard Hawley - Manchester Academy 26/9/12

I have a confession to make: I was in two minds about going to this gig. When this tour was first announced, I was in the midst of playing Richard's most recent and excellent album, "Standing At The Sky's Edge" (which I've already gushed over a bit here and will no doubt do so again) on constant repeat, and initially I thought this would be a must-see gig.

However, I read online reviews some people were moaning about the brevity of his sets. So at £20 a ticket I thought I'd wait it out and see how I feel about going closer to the date.

This turned out to be a brilliant move on my part: queueing for tickets at the door, a member of the door staff kindly offered me a returned ticket for FREE! Result! Although I did feel like I should stump up SOME cash, so I bought this lovely poster at the merch table to compensate.

Anyway, onto the actual gig. First, a quick word about the evening's support act, Lisa Hannigan. You might not recognise her name but you may recognise her voice: she's the lass that sang on much of Damien Rice's first two records.
In short, she was excellent. The Academy's brilliant acoustics really brought the best out of her ethereal vocals, and the bloke she had on backing vocals wasn't any slouch either. Her acoustic set was well received by the audience, and capped off by a fine cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" in tribute to Levon Helm of The Band.

Having had our daily intake of Irish folk satisfied, the audience was ready for Richard and his band. Although apparently Richard wasn't quite ready for us. "Where the fuck did you lot come from?"

The "banter"... urgh sorry, I hate that word! Let's stick with "maverick Yorkshire charm" instead. There, I don't feel sick in my mouth typing that. Anyway, thanks to his maverick Yorkshire charm, Richard kept a firm rapport up with the audience all night. This is probably the reason some people think of his shows as being short: the night was full of so many great anecdotes and quips.

For instance, introducing tear-jerker "Don't Stare At The Sun", Richard explained "This is about taking one of my sons out to fly his kite. Pretty obtuse thing to write about, right? Thing was, I was off my fucking head on acid at the time."
Even better was the tale he had to tell about the rousing "Tonight The Streets Are Ours" being used in a film: apparently the director called him about it while Richard was on a two day bender with old friends ("It were a right laugh"). Hearing him talk about coming home after said bender was hilarious, his wife berating him to take the washing out ("You'd think a man of my standing would get more reverence.").

The audience, myself included were lapping it out of the palm of his hand, and virtually every song played received hearty cheers. In particular "Hotel Room" and "Open Up Your Door" went down a storm, and you could see the gratitude on his face for every ovation he and his band got.

I could spend nearly the entirety of this review going over the between song chatter, but this being a gig I probably should say a bit about the music!

Naturally the set was heavy on tracks from "...Sky's Edge", and it's the heavy guitar work of that album that really came to life. The guitars from singles "Leave Your Body Behind You" and "Down In The Woods" in particular stood out. Richard's band were excellent, in particular his guitarist (Richard's ringing endorsement: "Good guitar players in this country are really hard to come by. Well... who am I kidding, there's fucking loads!"). The lighting and the stage set up were also great and helped recreate the atmosphere of some of the albums more psychedelic, shoegaze-ish moments.

Songs from his previous albums were carefully chosen and dealt with in one of two ways. Either they came at gentler points in the set (the reflective "Remorse Code" lead in to the closing songs of the end of the main set, "Lady Solitude" was left until the start of the encore as a surprise of sorts), or like the two tracks from "Cole's Corner", "Hotel Room" and the sublime show-closer "The Ocean", they were re-purposed ever so slightly so that the guitars were more at the forefront of the songs.

For me personally the highlights were the songs that mixed the two: the way "Soldier On" begins as a longing, forlorn ballad before building to a dramatic wall of sound, and the majestic "Before" being the best examples.

By the end of the night the audience had resorted to pantomime to try to keep Richard from leaving;

Richard: "This'll be our last song."
Audience: NOOOOOO!
Richard (in a sing-song voice): "Yee-aa-ees."
Audience: NOOOOOO!
Richard (dead quick): "Yes"
Audience (dead quick): NO!

No way did we want him to leave when he was on such top form. But alas, as he pointed out "I only live 40 miles away, I'll be back!" I've no doubt he will be, and chances are I'll be there to watch. Who knows, maybe I'll pay to get in next time!

Anyway, cheers Richard. Next one's on me.

  1. Standing at the Sky's Edge
  2. Don't Stare at the Sun
  3. Hotel Room
  4. Tonight the Streets Are Ours
  5. Seek It
  6. Soldier On
  7. Leave Your Body Behind You
  8. Before
  9. Open Up Your Door
  10. Remorse Code
  11. Time Will Bring You Winter
  12. Down in the Woods
  13. Lady Solitude
  14. The Ocean