Richard Hawley greeted the Sage Gateshead’s audience with two thumbs up before he and the band were received with enthusiastic applause and cheers from the crowd. Dressed in a chequered shirt and denim jacket Hawley spoke to the audience throughout the show, reciting jokes about his time spent in the North East. He appeared as the everyman and if it weren’t for his signature quiff and Buddy Holly glasses, you might pass him by in the street without realising. You shouldn’t though, because since 2000 Richard Hawley has produced some absolutely stunning records and his live shows are an example to his superb musical craftsmanship.
With a backlog of 8 albums fans expected any number of hits from Hawley. He chose to focus on his heavier 2012 album, Standing At The Sky’s Edge and his recently released Hollow Meadows. The set he played was one of contrasting styles, with soft melodic tunes being followed by heart pounding anthems. Hawley’s playing is also some of the most satisfying I’ve heard in a while. His tone joyously accompanied his songs and he wasn’t afraid to let loose as he provided many blistering guitar solos throughout the night.
The night began with Which Way, a track from Hollow Meadows, followed by the memorable These Streets Are Ours. The highlight of the set came early as Hawley and his four-piece band stormed through the heavy and psychedelic Standing at the Sky’s Edge. When it finished and the applause died down, hushed expressions of awe could be heard from numerous fans. Other standout tracks included the beautiful Don’t Stare At The Sun and the thunderous Leave Your Body Behind You.
The stage itself had a sparse setup, with the band being illuminated by five spotlights and some spectacular if minimal lighting. Smoke accompanied the moodier and more psychedelic songs and the modest setup only made the audience focus more on the music.
Whilst Hawley definitely let his guitar do the talking, his vocals were equally as satisfying as he crooned his way through the set. His deep voice was accompanied by some tender harmonies, filling out the choruses of tracks. He may not have the most powerful of voices but Hawley’s unique vocal style resonated throughout the hall.
Whist the show was undeniably excellent it did feel all too short at only 70 minutes. The encore consisted of two songs with Hawley finishing the night with fan favourite The Ocean. This wasn’t before he introduced the band members, noting their contribution to the night’s excellent performance. He amicably welcomed the audience to applaud bassist Colin Elliot, keys player John Trier, drummer Dean Beresford and guitarist Shez Sheridan.
After The Ocean finished Richard Hawley was left with a standing ovation and cries of more. Many were hoping for more songs but the set he and the band had played was exciting, beautiful and powerful. I urge anyone who has the chance to see him live to take it, as they’ll get to experience one of the Britain’s finest and most deserving artists.