Richard Hawley at the Roundhouse
Once the guitarist of The Longpigs and Pulp, Richard Hawley has established himself as a solid solo artist with more than one string to his bow. He has released eight studio albums and a host of singles since 2001; Standing at the Sky’s Edge, a musical based on Hawley’s songs, had a critically-acclaimed sold-out run at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last March. The singer-songwriter has also contributed to the soundtracks of British films such as Funny Cow (in which he also has a role), Exit Through the Gift Shop, and Denmark. His distinctive baroque pop style has won him a dedicated following, and his outing at the Roundhouse served an adoring fan base with just the right combination of old favourites and new songs from recent release Further.
Openers Off My Mind and Alone, both from Further, proved an explosive start to the set with their head-banging guitar lines and severe delivery. But Hawley quickly transitioned into something more contemplative with the acoustic flow of Further’s title track and the quasi-Biblical slow rock jam Standing at the Sky’s Edge. Doors, with its low-key strains of Morrissey, was a real highlight of Hawley’s new material, providing a high point midway through the set.
Hawley was at his very best, his sophisticated guitar sound and heartfelt, honest lyrics offering a closeness to the audience that was balanced by his virtuoso performance. Lights and rear projection took spectators through galaxies and across decades to momentous effect. And the audience lapped it up. Hawley’s fans are loyal, enthusiastic and loving; the feeling appeared to be mutual when Hawley ended the gig with “London, I love you,” to raucous applause. But it was clear that the smoothness of the show was to override fan tyranny: at one point Hawley refused demands to play Ocean, instead offering the crowd a well-orchestrated and intricately-lit rendition of Coles Corner – another popular track from the 2005 album of the same name.
While most of the tracks he performed came from Further, Hawley broke up his set with returns to the tracks that made him the powerhouse he is today. Tonight the Streets are Ours, There’s a Storm a-Comin’, and especially Open Up Your Door raised the audience’s excitement to fever pitch. The newer songs elicited genuine admiration and praise, but it was the moments when Hawley returned to time-tested favourites that gave this show its star quality. It might be music for a niche, but he does it like no one else.
Photos: Guifre de Peray
For further information and future events visit Richard Hawley’s website here.
Watch the video for Off My Mind here: