COMING home can be an emotionally-loaded experience for us all. But for an artist so intrinsically tied to his city as Richard Hawley, tonight was only ever going to be an utterly electric experience.
Tonight’s show at Sheffield City Hall sold out in just 15 minutes, and the sense of anticipation that hangs in the air is near volatile. The slightest gesture from Hawley sparks off a rapturous response.
Clearly humbled to his very core, Hawley stands proud but comfortable on the City Hall stage – like he’s merely standing among friends in his local. Hawley’s set is loaded with classic Yorkshire banter as he wraps his silky tones around everything from how we need to protect the public’s countryside and tales of the Sheffield of yesteryear to the time he got too drunk to put the washing out or understand a phone call from Banksy.
“This one’s about taking your kids to the park to go on the swings,” he says introducing a soul-searing rendition of Don’t Stare At The Sun, then continues: “But with a twist as I was off my head on acid…please don’t report me.”
His personality alone is enough to hold the capacity crowd enraptured, but with a stage draped in greenery, Hawley’s sprawling cinematic sounds transport us all to another place entirely.
From the epic opener and title-track of latest Mercury-nominated album Standing At The Sky’s Edge to the sweet and swooning Tonight The Streets Are Ours, every moment feels timeless and classic.
A standing ovation sees Hawley return for a tear-jerking cover of Paul Robeson’s Water Boy in memory of his grandfather and a colossal and life-affirming closing of The Ocean before he promises to never stray too far from his roots.
As his sound grows ever expansive and his profile soars ever skyward, Hawley shows no signs of changing: “I’m still just a speccy lad from Pitsmoor,” he smiles – “and very proud to be so.”
His final moments on stage say it all. With his hand on his heart he thanks the amorous audience, then with his tongue in his cheek he signs off with a wry “up the owls!”
And that’s our Hawley all over – Standing At The Sky’s Edge with his feet still firmly on the ground.
- By Andrew Trendell
- Richard Hawley returns to play Sheffield City Hall again on Monday 1st October