Gig Review | Richard Hawley @ Usher Hall

Richard Hawley Scottish Show Poster

“An eclectic array of music for fans new and old.”

Let’s all meet up in the year 2000,” is the beginning of the chorus in Pulp’s fan-favourite ‘Disco 2000′, and that’s exactly what Richard Hawley and the band’s frontman Jarvis Cocker did. After Longpigs, Hawley’s previous 90s britpop group, split up, he joined Pulp as their guitarist. Cocker and Hawley have always been good friends, as was Hawley with the late Pulp bassist Steve Mackey. Alongside working with his friends and helping to create a high level of musical momentum, Hawley was busy creating his debut self-titled record, released in 2001. A second album followed that same year, igniting the start of his own musical identity as well as assisting many along the way.

If you think of any band or artist, Hawley is probably affiliated in some way or another. Growing up, he would frequently listen to Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. In 2012, he worked with the latter’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, on her album “Storm & Grace” with the song ‘Weary‘, for which Hawley wrote the music. Nancy Sinatra, Tom Jones and Arctic Monkeys are other prevalent names within his rich musical repertoire.

With the stage decorated simply with a “Welcome to Sheffield” sign and several spotlights, Richard Hawley and his band made their way onto stage to the sound of loud applaud and cheering. May 2024 saw Richard release his latest album, “In This City They Call You Love“. Within this show at the Usher Hall, he showed off some of this new material and it went down successfully with the Scots. As always, this latest addition to his discography is timeless and effortlessly elegant. Songs like ‘Heavy Rain‘, ‘Two for His Heels‘ and ‘Prism in Jeans‘ made the setlist alongside Hawley’s older material. It felt like a transportation through time, allowing fans to revel in the essence of reminiscing along with him.

This theme was present too in the support set from John Smith, a singer-songwriter from Essex. Smith was armed simply with a guitar, pedals and vibrant vocals. Like Hawley, Smith too released an album this year. In March, “The Living Kind” was produced, becoming his 7th studio record since his debut in 2009. The title track of this album was present on his short but striking set. Opening track ‘Candle‘ also features on this newest release along with ‘Too Good To Be True‘. The latter track is one that gives a nostalgic notion yet surrounds looking forward and learning from the past.

Smith and Hawley both also shared similarity in their humour and joking with the crowd. When discussing his records, including the most recent one, Smith joked that he had released three albums since the start of the pandemic. This included “one for every English Prime Minister“. These include 2021 album “The Fray“, from which he played ‘Sanctuary‘, and his most popular track ‘Far Too Good‘ from 2017 album “Headlong“. His wonderfully witty and engaging performance was refreshing and built the night up nicely for Richard Hawley’s equally as impressive set.

Back to Hawley’s set, hypnotic harmonies and stellar solos provided an eclectic array of music for fans new and old. His oldest track ‘Just Like the Rain‘ was part of the setlist, taken from 2005 album “Coles Corner“. This track was written when Hawley was only 16, he joked that he has always been miserable. Also included was the title track, with ‘The Ocean‘ forming part of the encore.

The lighting during this headline show made every song immersive and truly added a different dimension. It looked like we were within a snow globe during “Coles Corner“, temporarily encapsulating the audience in a moment of solidarity and unity. The title track from “Standing at the Sky’s Edge” and ‘Don’t Stare At the Sun‘ helped feature the 2012 album. For the latter track, lighting brought lyrics to life. When Hawley sang “don’t stare at the sun for too long“, spotlights behind the band brightened. Throughout, the production of the show utilised every element of the otherwise simple and minimalist stage setup.

Hawley also emphasised his distaste towards the Conservative party, stating we should “get rid of the Tories“. This statement was met with applaud yet again from the Scottish crowd, letting him know his opinion was shared. 2007 hit single ‘Tonight the Streets Are Ours‘ followed, and what a delight to finally hear this live.

Fans got an intriguing insight into Richard Hawley’s solo career. From his debut solo record in 2001, to his recent 2024 release, Hawley has a musical career worth raving about. I am so glad I didn’t miss this gig. If you know who Hawley is, you’ll understand and appreciate the wealth of experience he has in the music industry, and all of the impressive projects he has been part of. It feels as though he has taken a little bit of influence, or inspiration, from everyone he has worked with. For example, Hawley collaborated with Hank Marvin, a member of Cliff Richard’s backing band, The Shadows. The simplistic setup of the stage, and the timeless energy of his songs make this influence especially prevalent.

Even with only 5 other musicians on stage with him, they created an orchestral feel, and my attention was never diverted once. Being greeted at the end with a standing ovation, Hawley looked moved, yet incredibly thankful. I absolutely cannot wait to catch him live again sometime soon, I think he’s one of the most under appreciated characters in the UK music industry. However those who do know him make their passion for his art clear and truly recognise his tremendous talents.

Richard Hawley