Richard Hawley Fire Station Sunderland 12 December 2022

HAWLEY TIXNow this guy is a bit of an enigma. I guess you would say he has a very dedicated cult following. And rightly so. However, everyone I told I was going to see Richard Hawley, including some quite up-to-date music aficionados, said “Who Is he?” Yet this show sold out very quickly, even after the venue had removed all of the seats from the downstairs area in order to allow entry to more people.

HAWLEY3The last time I saw Richard Hawley was probably over 10 years ago when he was the support act for one of my personal heroes (and his apparently), Nancy Sinatra at the Sage Gateshead. I have missed the last few times he has been in the north-east and I thought it was about time that I picked up on him again, particularly when the show was local and in such an intimate, new, lovely, purpose-built concert venue. We arrived in time to catch the support act Katie Spencer who, not unlike Hawley, has her own individual style which is difficult to describe. On her website she describes herself as: 

HAWLEY2“Uk progressive folk singer-songwriter & guitarist. And using the words of others: ‘Katie’s guitar playing has echoes of my dear friend the late great Bert Jansch. Like a musical weaver she threads her poetic lyrics through the guitar’s strings and produces little tapestries of song.’ – Ralph McTell​. ‘Her articulate picking, with suggestions of folk and jazz, frames intelligently written songs and is the backbone to her music.’ – Guitarist Magazine. ‘One of the most satisfying and spellbinding singer-songwriter collections I’ve encountered in some time.’ – RnR Magazine”

HAWLEY4During the interval I managed to have a pint of Guinness and catch up with some friends who are also fans of Richard Hawley. Soon the guy took the stage. Richard has his own style. With his quiff hairstyle and American college boy cardigan, he looks every bit the 1950s rockabilly star. Indeed, his guitars, which he seems to change after each song, are also old 50s and 60s instruments, such as a Gretsch semiacoustic with large tremolo, a Burns (Hank) Marvin and various other lovely guitars.

HAWLEY BADGBut there is much, much more to this guy than a simple 50s/60s influenced singer. Sure you can hear those influences now and then, but Hawley has his own style transcends easy description and blends rockabilly, 60s music and blues, with more modern sounds. The Fire Station website describes his music, influence and collaborators thus: 

“In the two decades that have elapsed since Hawley jettisoned band life, first with The Longpigs and then as Pulp’s guitarist, the 52-year-old songwriter has forged one of the most singular and diverse careers in modern music…. Hawley has worked with a host of impressive collaborators – such as Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Elbow, Texas and Paul Weller, alongside personal heroes that include U.S guitarist Duane Eddy, Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Lisa Marie Presley and British folk royalty Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson.”

HAWLEY TOWLNow with collaborators like that, you really can’t go wrong, can you? The only song I really know is “Tonight the Streets Are Ours “, but the rest of the set is excellent. Hawley has surrounded himself with an excellent band including a second guitarist who complements Richard’s own style and a great blues harp player who emerges from the side of the stage at various times to add his rasping harmonica. Some of the songs are quite dark and the lighting in the venue is set up well to emphasise this. My carer for the evening, Jackie, sees some of Nick Cave in Hawley. I don’t disagree. Hawley, like his support act, is a true northern guy, wearing his Sheffield style and accent proudly on his chest.

HAWLEY BOXOn the way out I buy some merchandise which is also quite individual and quirky. As you can see, I get a tea towel, a couple of badges and a natty little musical box which, when turned, plays a Richard Hawley tune (you can choose which one). No programme or T-shirt for this guy. Too conventional, I guess! A great show by a wonderful artist whose cult following is no doubt growing and at one stage we may see him break through to the mainstream. But maybe Richard Hawley is just fine the way with things the way they are.

Setlist: Off My Mind; Alone; Further; Standing at the Sky’s Edge; I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me; Emilina Says; Tonight the Streets Are Ours; Coles Corner; Galley Girl; Don’t Stare at the Sun; Time Is; Open Up Your Door; Down in the Woods; Is There a Pill?

Encore: There’s a Storm Comin’; Heart of Oak

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve on December 19, 2022 at 5:05 pm

    I’ve not had the opportunity to seek out Richard Hawley – but the “Coles Corner” album is an amazing place to get a feel for his music……..he’s becoming a must-see.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Tony Grey on December 19, 2022 at 5:08 pm

    I should have been at that gig, my friend got tickets, unfortunately due to the bad weather & having to drive up from the midlands, & back the next morning, I cried off.
    I was most disappointed I couldn’t get, as Richard is fantastic live, great songwriter, brilliant guitarist & very funny. Having left Sunderland in the late 70s, I was also keen to attend a gig at the Fire Station
    Glad you enjoyed it.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on December 19, 2022 at 6:44 pm

      Life is full of regrets Tony.I have many, mostly about concerts I wish I had attended! I am sure you will have other opportunities to see Richard Hawley and to visit the Fire Station. Thanks for sharing. Have a great Christmas and all the best for the New Year. Best wishes Peter

      Reply

  3. I agree, having seen him several times, that Richard Hawley is a tremendous live act. He’s not doing too badly for a cult act, with his last 5 albums all placing in the top 20, two of them in the top 3.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on December 19, 2022 at 6:31 pm

      Hi Stephen on reflection maybe a cult artist is a bit of an unfair description. Anyway, I agree he is a tremendous live act and I didn’t realise how popular he is! Happy days Peter

      Reply

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