Video and live review - Richard Hawley, The University of East Anglia, his love for ‘beautiful Norwich’ and a trip to Looses
09:24 18 September 2012
Firstly a confession. I’m a selfish music fan - and I suspect that perhaps you are too.
I’ll fall in love with a band or performer, but even more so if I think that I’m one of only a select few.
And then, while you do want them to do well and get big, it takes the shine off a bit if eventually they do.
Whether it’s consciously or not, I’m sure I have gone off a few bands because everyone else is suddenly into them, rather than because their latest album has been a disappointment.
I guess we all like to feel that we have discovered someone or something that few others have, whether it be a great piece of music, under-valued book or unheralded film.
Yet, as far as Richard Hawley goes, I don’t feel like that at all.
Quite the opposite in fact, I can’t understand why more people aren’t into him, why he isn’t a national treasure.
It’s not that he hasn’t got the songs - and I’ll come on to more of that in a bit.
And it also isn’t that he doesn’t get the praise or media exposure. A few years ago when he lost out in the prestigious Mercury Music Prize to The Arctic Monkeys, they proclaimed that someone should ‘call the police, as Richard Hawley’s just been robbed’.
This year, his latest album, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, is one of the hot favourites to win the award.
Granted, he’s not unheard of and tonight there’s a decent crowd of around 500 or so at the UEA, but to me it feels like this venue should be sold out - and some.
Perhaps I’m biased, because in many ways Hawley has defined the 16 or so years of being a proper music fan.
My second ever gig was to see the Longpigs at The Waterfront. On guitar that day was Hawley - though granted he looked nothing like the slick-haired, leather-coated Hawley of now.
When the Longpigs split he played a major part in Pulp - one of my all-time favourite bands.
But it is as a solo artist that his music has really become a regular part of my musical diet.
For the uninitiated, Hawley is now six albums in and each one is a class act. He croons in a deep Yorkshire accent over some of the most luscious tunes of the past decade.
Tonight we are treated to several of what could be regarded as classics, but he largely picks from his most recent album.
The older songs include Soldier On, Open Up Your Door, The Streets Our Ours and The Ocean.
Each one is pitch perfect and the crowd falls silent to give the songs the respect they deserve.
But it’s the newer songs that really shine tonight - even though they are very different in style to anything Hawley has tried before as a solo artist.
He still croons, but songs such as Before, Don’t Stare At the Sun and the title track, are louder, faster and much, much darker.
During Down In the Woods the song takes an almost terrifying turn midway as Hawley recites lines from two children’s nursery rhymes. ‘If you go down in the woods today’ he sneers. This is him at his creative best.
And the crowd love it and he gets a fantastic reception - and not just because he speaks of his love for ‘beautiful Norwich’ (Hawley’s wife is from Norfolk) and tells us how he enjoyed a trip to the city’s Looses store earlier that day to buy some vinyl.
That’s one other thing that defines Hawley and stands him out from many of today’s performers. He’s a talker and a great one at that with a brilliant sense of humour. Think fellow Yorkshireman Jarvis Cocker after his tongue has been loosened by a few whisky chasers.
In fact that’s probably why I can’t help but want even more people to enjoy his music - because it’s clear he’s such a thoroughly decent bloke.
With bags of talent too of course.