Richard Hawley at Vicar Street, Dublin, 3rd of December 2012

Vicar Street is filling nicely on a Monday night in anticipation of Richard Hawley. Right now though, John Smith and his band are on stage. Smith’s deep, velvet vocals are earning him a few fans in the room and his song writing isn’t too bad either. Closer In the Winter, in particular, is a fantastic song; well worth checking out.

It’s 9.25 when Sheffield man Hawley emerges from back stage. He is dressed in a leather jacket with trademark 1950’s hair and glasses, looking like a cross between Buddy Holly and Fonzie. His band take their place in the background, where they remain all night, while Hawley remains the centre of attention.

Hawley is entertaining. He tells stories. He deals with hecklers: “Most artists have a plant in the audience,” he says after some obscure shout from the crowd. “I have a cabbage.” And, of course, he sings and plays music.

Opener Standing at the Sky’s Edge displays a lot of what is special about Hawley’s music. His voice is deep and clear, perfectly suited to his deep, thoughtful lyrics.  When the guitar kicks in halfway through, the song suddenly changes into a rock beast. The change of direction manages to fit perfectly. It’s a similar formula he uses on Before and the brilliant Soldier On – a song it’s tough not to well up to – later in the set. The songs, though similar in style, end up rather different. They are each allowed to follow their own, natural path to their conclusions.  Hawley gives his guitar time to shine without it ever seem like he’s being self-indulgent; a fine line it’s often difficult to balance.

There are more conventionally directed songs too. Seek It and Tonight the Streets Are Ours are more traditional love songs, though the latter is so timeless, it could have been written at any time in the last fifty years. Indeed, one of Hawley’s stories concerns answering the phone to a request for that song to be used in a film. Having misinterpreted ‘Banksy’ as being Pulp drummer Nick Banks, he told him to “Fuck off!” The song would later appear in Exit Through the Gift Shop however. “It was in the Simpsons too,” Hawley mentions in passing when the song’s over.

There are some psychedelic songs thrown into the mix, just when required to rekindle some lost energy in the room. Leave Your Body Behind, Time Will Bring You Winter and Down to the Woods are all dreamy rock songs that get the crowd bobbing along. Even when he breaks down the latter to add a few bars of Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Row Your Boat – lingering ever so slightly on “Life is but a dream” – it doesn’t feel hackneyed or childish.

Encore duo of Lady Solitude and The Ocean, an epic version of which he plays on the night, closes the show after nearly two hours. It’s an achievement to play a show of that length that seems packed yet only contains fourteen songs, but that’s just what Richard Hawley did on Monday.

Standing at the Sky’s Edge
Don’t Stare at the Sun
Hotel Room
Tonight the Streets Are Ours
Seek It
Soldier On
Leave Your Body
Open Up Your Door
Remorse Code
Time Will Bring You Winter
Down to the Woods

Lady Solitude
The Ocean

Richard Hawley Photo Gallery

Photos: Mark Earley