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Richard Hawley, O2 Institute, Birmingham - review

By Leon Burakowski | Music | Published:

I have a theory that you can tell the creativity of an artist by the merchandise sold at their gigs. If so, Richard Hawley is at the forefront.

Richard Hawley

Alongside the usual paraphernalia of T-shirts and CDs was a musical box playing one of his tunes and personalised bottles of Henderson’s Relish, Sheffield’s answer to Worcester Sauce. And this was a gig to relish.

The full house audience at the ornate Digbeth venue were warmed up by strident protest singer Sam Duckworth (AKA Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly). Given the current times, I am surprised there are not more protest singers around.

Even if the name Richard Hawley is unfamiliar, you will probably have heard his music due to its use by TV advertisers and drama makers, including on the soundtrack to the recent series of Peaky Blinders.

Bequiffed and clad in denim like a rockabilly rebel, the 52-year-old Yorkshireman and his five-piece band hit the stage with Off My Mind, the rocking opener from his latest, and eighth, album Further.

Hawley is probably best known for his ballads but this gig showed that the former Longpigs and sometime Pulp guitarist can conjure up a guitar squall. This was apparent on Down In The Woods and the dramatic Sky’s Edge from his neo-psychedelic album Standing at the Sky’s Edge.

He has also created one of rock music’s great melodic anthems with Tonight The Streets Are Ours, from his classic 2007 album Lady’s Bridge, which he performed half an hour into the set.

Hawley remains a master of the melancholy rock ballad, exercising his world-wearing croon on Cole’s Corner and Open Up Your Door.

He brought his 90-minute-plus concert to a close with an encore comprising Not Lonely, Storm and Heart of Oak, sending the fans home happy... and some with sauce in their pocket.

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