Richard Hawley @ O2 Apollo, Manchester [REVIEW]
Alejandro De Luna
If Richard Hawley is constantly recognized for pursuing the never-ending-perfect-pop-song-crusade along with having an obsession for the exquisite songbook of the 50s & 60s, the enraged and rugged side of the man from Sheffield cannot be underestimated. As the set moves forward in his “beloved” Manchester, the elegant Orbison-esque soulful balladries are alternated with moments of full-blown psychedelia and distorted crescendos. His current live repertoire forces the audience to go into a rollercoaster of emotions: from a reflective state when he throws touching and hushed hooks of melancholia and longing to hypnotic passages when he becomes the guitar hero impersonator.
Hawley‘s set opens with ‘Which Way’ – a track from his essential and latest effort, Hollow Meadows – that becomes an implacable introduction to his delicate baritone and sensibility as an artist, but also a prelude to the sonic possibilities that the audience will witness throughout the show. Immediately after, he throws one of his anthems with ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ and goes next with another illustration of timeless pop quality as he plays ‘I Still Want You’.
The pattern of sonic duality between the mellow ballads in contrast with the ferocity and psychedelia witnessed in tracks like ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’, ‘Time Will Bring You Winter’, ‘Down In The Woods’ – that seems to pay respects to The Stooges’ ‘1969’ riff – and the quintessential English ‘Don’t Stare At The Sun’, bring a perfect balance to the set and helps the man with the quiff to avoid being pigeonholed by clichés.
Richard Hawley’s exquisite taste and deep understanding of the classic pop melody is visible in gems like ‘Open Up Your Door’, ‘Coles Corner’, ‘Sometimes I Feel’ and ‘The Ocean’, but it’s the electric and atmospheric animal inside his head that allows him to step away from just being recognized as a genius bandit of the classic pop songbook.
It seems that people tend to ignore what a great guitar player Richard Hawley is until you see him on stage. Besides that, the man is blessed with one of the most captivating baritones in England and his band sounds beyond tight. As he leaves the stage with a standing ovation in Manchester, I ask myself the question that Richard Hawley posed in the first song: Which way do I go? With the introvert and witty musician whose stories of love and despair are embellished by a touching voice or with the darker and psychedelic doppelganger enhanced by the sound of Gibson, Rickenbacker and Gretsch guitars? Both work to me.
Which Way / Tonight The Streets Are Ours / I Still Want You / Leave Your Body Behind You / Sometimes I Feel / Open Up Your Door / Tuesday pm / Time Will Bring You Winter / Down In The Woods / Don’t Stare At The Sun / Heart Of Oak / There’s A Storm Comin’ // Coles Corner / What Love Means / The Ocean