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- Koko, Camden Town »
- Richard Hawley »
Richard Hawley knows his audience. He may even know them personally. He asks the crowd in Koko who’s there from Sheffield and a roar goes up. “Oh great,” he says, “I do all this fucking work just to bring my audience down here with me.” Whether it’s true or not, his native south Yorkshire hangs heavy in the air. Talking between songs he is like John Shuttleworth’s rockabilly twin, but when he unleashes his tremulous croon all thoughts of ‘Pigeons In Flight’ are banished.
His many years as a session player have given him the self-deprecating but cynical air that goes with that territory. He cannot resist undermining the epic element to his music. Before playing tearsoaked ballad of the year ‘The Ocean’_ he hands the audience a Hoseasons brochure, pointing out the beach where it was written. With ‘Cole’s Corner’ he explains that it’s where his parents met, then after a suitable pause, “and they had a shag and here I am.” But he isn’t the speak-as-I-find ordinary bloke he wants us to think he is. How can he be when he writes songs as emotionally majestic as those?
No-one said you have to be a wimpy fop to be a great singer/songwriter. It reminds me of a man I met once who used to promote in the northern clubs. “I put ‘em all on,” he told me wistfully one rainy afternoon, “Bernard Manning, Scott Walker – the lot.” It’s a comment that has always made me laugh, but in Richard Hawley it somehow makes sense.
He is still largely under the radar even after three and a half towering albums, but they have been enough to secure a devoted following. In fact, the gig feels like the meeting of a secret, albeit rather ageing, society. But the devotion is deserved. This set shows that he is a master of lived-in, vintage songcraft. It’s a talent that lies somewhere between his hero, Johnny Cash (fed solidly through the PA before and after the show), and his former employers, Pulp. He makes bruised, ordinary real life beautiful.
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