Richard Hawley + Lisa Hannigan @ Leeds O2 – 25/9/12

We arrived at the O2 to see Lisa Hannigan singing her heart out – almost drowned by knobheads at the bar (£6 for a pint of lager and a half of coke!!!!). She was fantastic. Afterwards we bumped into QUIMS regular Roger who had sensibly gone to the Victoria for a couple of pints first (but foolishly missed Lisa’s set – “Fancy writing this one up Rog?” and here it is…..


I’m ambivalent about South Yorkshire. It’s part of my home county but not part of me, somewhere that I pass through on the M1 to the world that lies beyond the broad acres. In the sixties Sheffield outshone Leeds, it had a bigger Schofields for starters and a steel industry that was the envy of the world. Nowadays Schofields has gone and been replaced by Meadowhell and the the cooling towers and industry that they supported are dead (or at least diminished)………and yet

Sheffield has in my musical lifetime been the provider of much joy from the Human League (pre Dare of course) through the industrial (that word again) rhythms of Cabaret Voltaire to the more intelligent than Brit pop collective, Pulp and the envy of youth that the Arctic Monkeys provided.

In my current musical ennui where new stuff really isn’t doing it for me, not ‘their’ fault it’s an age thing, could Sheffield provide some salvation? I’ll be honest if I hear one more eighties inspired, skinny jeaned pop combo or a drony, falsetto back woods, bearded Americana outfit I will curl up in a corner and give up!

Richard Hawley has been around the musical block, in a very good way for quite a while taking in the Long Pigs and the aforementioned Pulp along the way. A few years ago and after a couple of false starts (still good albums though), he received a Mercury award nomination for the lovely Coles Corner, he was pipped by fellow steelers the Monkeys, and since then has released beautiful late night albums of crooned love and loss. Very nice but not world shattering and the earlier this year he released ‘Standing at the sky’s edge’, all throbbing guitar and dense walls of sound, with that voice and those words. Its received a mercury award nomination, is named after another place in Sheffield and I love it.

I last saw him at Kegworth services on the M1, buying a sandwich in M&S, he wasn’t singing but cut an admirable, music industry shape, I was hoping for more from his appearance at the Leeds Academy on a rainy night at the end of September. I received much more.

The demographic attending was very similar to myself, curmudgeonly, middle-aged blokes still harbouring desires to be on that stage, some with partners, others sadly abandoned to their middle aged fantasies. The t-shirt stand reflected the market perfectly selling Hawley branded tins of sweets for the car and bottles of sauce, both from Sheffield manufacturers and preferable to a moob highlighting skinny ‘t’.

Hawley came on stage dressed as the man in black with requisite quiff and played a set full of joy and wonder (with ballads thrown in for good measure). He began with the title song from the album and maintained the magic from there with ‘don’t stare at the sun’, ‘she brings the sunlight’ and ‘before’ being real highlights. He introduced ‘ Leave your body behind you’ (see the picture of the sweets tin lid) as being a song about flying a kite with your kids…on acid, it was fabulous. ‘Before’ was as heart breaking as it is on the album and even ‘Seek it’, the album’s weakest point was enhanced by it’s live setting. He finished with the lively ‘Down in the woods’, before leaving us with ‘The Ocean’ from Coles Corner. An emotional highlight, spoiled by the screeching, stoned pair in front of us. As he mentioned in one of his many, dry and funny asides ‘ who buy’s a f***Ing ticket and then talks through it, you must have more money than sense’.

In his aforementioned stories between songs, he comes across like a slightly younger version of his compatriot John Shuttleworth as he covers stories of his home life and receiving calls whilst drunk from Banksy requesting the use of ‘Tonight these streets are ours’ in a film he was making.

The stage was set like a Sylvain, wooden glade on acid, the guitar roady wore a ‘Let’s ballad’ t-shirt and the band looked like the audience, they were magnificent (the band obviously), it was a great night.

Hawley is fabulous and Northern, see him while you can, it may even be worth going to Sheffield to do it.

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