(part of T on the Fringe)
My first experience of Richard Hawley should have been supporting his good friends Pulp on their Forest tour some four years ago, alas, bad traffic put paid to his appearance that night so I find myself in the Liquid Rooms of Edinburgh where he is playing to a packed crowd of his own fans.
Before he takes to the stage however, we are treated to a surprise support from Glasgow’s My Latest Novel, a last minute addition to the evening’s entertainment. Fresh from a gig in Brighton the previous night, the band have hotfooted it back up the road especially for the gig and they set the scene perfectly with their emotional folk tinged epics like ‘`Wrongfully I Rested’ and ‘`The Hope Edition’; unfortunately in set closer ‘`The Reputation of Ross Francis’ one of the mikes goes, leaving Laura to go it alone for the climax of the song. However, it takes nothing away from their performance which further strengthens their claim as one of Scotlands most promising bands.
Taking to the stage clad looking like a cross between a young Elvis Costello and a present day Roland Rivron, Richard Hawley endears himself immediately to the crowd by engaging in some banter, some of which would give a fair few of the so-called ‘`comedians’` a run for their money at the Fringe. His thick Sheffield accent does not exactly match his attire of 50’s rockabilly suit and quiffed hair, nor that of his jazz bar backing band, however it does bring a level of familiarity which can sometime be missing at gigs these days.
He kicks of the night with the title track of his latest album ‘`Coles Corner’ which is a beautiful romantic sounding piece which you can imagine being the soundtrack for a couple walking along a seafront at night, however it also appears to be the soundtrack for the couple standing next to me sucking each others face off! None the less it creates a really intimate setting which he clearly revels in, stating that he was really pleased to be in Edinburgh (cue catcalls from the large Glaswegian contigent present).
For anyone reading this who has not heard his voice, it does sound somewhat similar to that of Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, although singing far better songs especially on the second track ‘`Something is’ and one of the standout tracks of the night ‘`The Ocean’ which sounds absolutely stunning live. Hotel Room’ changes the pace slightly, sounding like a jukebox song from Twin Peaks and on ‘`You Don’t Miss Your Water’ which is dedicated to Grant McLennan of The Go Betweens, you can hear an almost hymnal quality to the music.
It is on ‘`Oh My Love’ that he truly proves what a talent he is, it begins delicately but soon builds up to an shimmering climax which recieves the applause and ovation it deserves, some songwriters could spend years trying to get near this quality of song yet this is plucked effortlessly from his largely unheralded back catalogue. In fact the final few songs are taken from his ‘`Lowedges’ album which clearly would be a good place to start for any newcomer to his work, the fantastic ‘`Run For Me’ brought the set to a premature close.
You could tell the band would gladly have played all night but the ever annoying 10pm curfew reared its ugly head, robbing us of an encore. However, for the people here tonight, nothing would spoil what was an exceptional evening.