Richard Hawley at The Fire Station
The Fire Station, SunderlandRichard Hawley, one of the UK’s best singer/songwriters, came to the Fire Station in Sunderland for a rare and intimate show that kicked off his latest tour. His musical talent emanates from his deep Sheffield roots, his father’s steel-making, working class background, and his childhood affection for country, blues, rock and roll and particularly 1960s rockabilly. In his long-standing musical career, he played with the Longpigs, Artic Monkeys and Pulp (with his close friend Jarvis Cocker) before he started out on his own nearly two decades ago. Since then, he has released eight studio albums and been nominated for both a Mercury prize and Brit Awards. So, not surprisingly, shortly after the initial announcement, the Fire Station gig was an immediate sell out thereby resulting in all of the seating being taken out of the stalls to allow more standing fans in. Regardless, it was still a capacity sell out and the throng were duly rewarded with a memorable gig. Katie Spencer opened things by playing tracks from her latest album ‘The Edge of the Land’ before Hawley emerged, clearly jovial. He got the crowd involved early on quipping that Las Vegas and Sunderland were the only two places around the globe where “sex can be traded for chips.” He then launched into the show with a trilogy of songs from his sublime 2019 album ‘Further’: ‘Off My Mind’, ‘Alone’ and the title track. These exquisite songs set the mood and tone for a memorable night. Next up was the beautiful ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ with its intense vocal and guitar riff. Following that was ‘I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me’ and ‘Emilina Says’. The majority of his songs are invariably interspersed with his enjoyable interaction with the audience. A female audience member, who was persistently squawking “I love you”, was met with “My mother always told me that.” He also talked about the appalling state of the Tory government and got the warmed up crowd to sing along and dance to two massive, politically charged favourites: ‘Tonight the Streets are Ours’ and ‘Coles Corner’. He followed these favourites with the melancholic delights of ‘Is There A Pill?’, ‘Galley Girl’ and ‘Don't Stare at the Sun’ before the powerful and heart wrenching ‘Open Up Your Door’. It’s perhaps these long and slow musical ballads that really display his instrumental chops rather than the faster rockabilly tracks. Following a deserved and prolonged standing ovation, he finished the set with a two song encore: ‘There’s a Storm a Coming’ and ‘Heart of Oak’ in which he really let rip with his guitar riffs. Interestingly, he had a guitar change for nearly every song from his eclectic collection of guitars, which made it nearly worth the entrance ticket itself to see and hear them all played. Sadly, he did not play fan favourites ‘The Ocean’ or ‘Just Like the Rain’ but I’m pretty sure he will on his return to the north-east. And he would return, given, he said, the magnificent reception he’d just received.