LIVE REVIEW: Richard Hawley @ The Glasshouse, Gateshead (13.06.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Dean Chalkley

Headlining Hall 1 hot on the heels of a ballad-heavy new record, one may have expected Richard Hawley’s return to The Glasshouse to lean into the quieter corners of a celebrated catalogue. Instead, we’re confronted with a towering seven-minute opener in She Brings The Sunlight; a sprawling psychedelic odyssey daubed with sky-scraping reverb and tangled, squalling solos. It’s a blinding, confounding statement of intent – so much for a peaceful evening!

There’s no lack of muscle across the slick 90-minute operation which follows either. The weighty brood of Standing At The Sky’s Edge and soaring anthem Heart of Oak in particular see Hawley flex his guitar hero credentials, with further beef laid on via his five-piece backing band, most now established Hawley veterans. There are nods to his oeuvre spanning the past two decades, and on occasion it can be a lot to live up to. Deep Space, a rare up-tempo cut from latest album In This City They Call You Love, in particular feels relatively lightweight amid such hefty company.

Even so, there’s plenty too for those who anticipated a more stripped-back evening – and it’s during these calmer moments that the new record’s wares flourish. Prism In Jeans, for instance, has the vintage air of an instant setlist staple, while People may just be his most naked, unadorned composition to date, and certainly offers the night’s finest showcase of Hawley’s rich Sheffield brogue. Both display a heartfelt poignancy and deftness of touch beautifully juxtaposing his gruff, sharp-witted persona out-of-song; a trait highlighted more starkly still during the dazzling glow of Heavy Rain, a gentle waltz which – for this writer, at least – mark’s the show’s highest point.

A regular visitor across – and sometimes between – album cycles, Hawley has perhaps played more breathtaking and intimate shows in our region over recent years. Few, however, have been quite so comprehensive, thus underscoring his standing among Britain’s most consistent and multifaceted songsmiths. Given the pair stood beside me chose to yap away obliviously throughout, it isn’t half a relief that those distortion pedals came along for the ride!

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