Richard Hawley – review

Forum, London

It's hard to be a guitar hero with a broken leg. Richard Hawley's broodingly heavy sixth album, Standing at the Sky's Edge, is a dramatic departure from his usual retro melancholy, and surely not a record he would have imagined having to perform in a wheelchair until a slippery marble staircase in Barcelona intervened. "I feel like Davros from Doctor Who," he says ruefully.

The painkillers limit his traditional between-song anecdotes, which have often been as entertaining as his music, though he is still a witty and self-deprecating host. Gesturing at the half-dozen trees that decorate the stage, he says: "It's like the back of B&Q, isn't it?" The foliage looks like an attempt by the Sheffield singer to stamp his identity on a less intimate venue (and noisier) than he's used to.

It's maddening to hear audience chatter in the back of the room almost drown out a song as exquisitely stealthy as Remorse Code, which highlights the rich charm of Hawley's croon: it has a well-worn, comforting quality, like pub upholstery. Conversely, the new album's most derivative song, Down in the Woods, sounds grippingly muscular, broken down midway through to a cosmic Bo Diddley beat and built back up into a wild roar. The two styles merge on Soldier On, which starts out hushed before exploding skywards with a jolt. Sometimes, it seems, howling guitars are the only way to ensure an audience's attention.

After a droll thank you on behalf of his band ("We're so grateful; without you guys, we couldn't buy booze and cocaine"), he offers a choice of two encores: one quiet, one loud. The crowd votes for the first, which Hawley calls "the shut-the-fuck-up option". And when he closes with The Ocean, an old song given a spectacular, soaring new arrangement, everyone does.

Contributor

Dorian Lynskey

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Richard Hawley | Pop review
Grand Opera House, YorkSheffield's favourite teddy-boy mixes tough talk and velvety vocals in his live show, finds Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

05, Oct, 2009 @8:30 PM

Article image
Richard Hawley – review

Richard Hawley's way with a putdown stopped his excellent show drifting totally into Nashville fantasy territory, writes Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont

15, Jul, 2013 @5:09 PM

Article image
Richard Hawley review – rampaging emotional power
The bequiffed, old-school crooner performs a killer, marathon setlist of new songs and his ‘mouldy oldies’

Dave Simpson

23, Oct, 2015 @1:24 PM

Article image
Richard Hawley: Standing At the Sky's Edge – review

Alexis Petridis: Richard Hawley does something of a stylistic about-face without sacrificing any of his unique appeal

Alexis Petridis

03, May, 2012 @2:29 PM

Richard Hawley: Truelove's Gutter | CD review

The time couldn't be more ripe for Richard Hawley to seduce a mainstream audience, says Maddy Costa

Maddy Costa

17, Sep, 2009 @11:01 PM

Article image
Richard Hawley: Rock'n'roll troubadour | Alexis Petrdis

Richard Hawley has been called a modern-day Roy Orbison. The Sheffield crooner talks about fame, Pulp, his dad's death – and kicking a gargantuan drug habit. By Alexis Petrdis

Alexis Petridis

20, Sep, 2009 @8:30 PM

Richard Hawley: Truelove's Gutter | CD review

Richard Hawley is rather keen to invites you inside his world, writes Gareth Grundy

Gareth Grundy

05, Sep, 2009 @11:02 PM

Article image
Plan B and Richard Hawley lead Mercury prize 2012 nominations
London rapper and Sheffield singer stand out as favourites from a shortlist dominated by indie bands and solo artists

Tim Jonze

12, Sep, 2012 @4:44 PM

Richard Hawley - Truelove's Gutter

Album exclusive: Your chance to hear Richard Hawley's mesmerising sixth album, Truelove's Gutter, before it hits the shops

guardian.co.uk/music

15, Sep, 2009 @10:27 AM

Article image
Richard Hawley – review

Crooning takes a back seat as Sheffield's sharp-tongued raconteur lets fly with a new grittier sound, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

06, Oct, 2012 @11:05 PM