Richard Hawley is on his best form yet, and delivers a storming crowd-pleaser set: dense guitar driven sound combined with beautiful ballads.

I imagine that many others in last night’s audience at The Roundhouse had, like me, put the final episode of Downton Abbey on ‘Record’. I’m indeed thankful for such technological wonders, because I wouldn’t have missed this incredible performance for the world.

Hawley had just played a blinder of a gig in Sheffield, and perhaps was still on a high from that home-crowd appearance. I did wonder if the set would be a tad ballad-heavy as Hawley’s introspective slow numbers are the predominate feature of new album Hollow Meadows, but instead this was more of a balanced festival-style crowd pleaser with a mix of new and old, with more than a sprinkling of material from the powerful Standing at the Sky’s Edge.

The opener was the pounding and slightly menacing Which Way? from Hollow Meadows, leading into Tonight the Streets are Ours. Later, Down in the Woods got the extended treatment with creepy nursery rhyme section, and statuesque ballad Heart of Oak from the new album has the sound of a new Hawley classic. Hawley’s voice, despite his smoking, or maybe because of it, is on effortless form. The three-number encore finished with an emotional number from 2005 Coles Corner, The Ocean.

Hawley didn’t spend too much time indulging in banter, although I could have done with a little more of his blunt and amusing quips. Actually, if he ever changes career and does a comedy night, I’ll be there. He asked a girl in the audience how old she was. Sixteen, came the answer. “I’ve got peas in my freezer older than you” was the reply. But for all the banter and Sheffield swagger, Hawley is a soft bloke, with his lilting and lovelorn ballads, and a song dedicated to his daughter.

Hawley Roundhouse

The stage set with its decorative panels and the lighting were particularly effective, and the sound was full, clear and well balanced. Hawley’s mid-gig minute’s silence for Remembrance Sunday was impeccably observed by the audience.

Twice, Hawley announced apologetically that he was about to play a ‘miserable’ tune. But however mournful and downbeat the song, this was an utterly joyful and well-received performance, and proof that Richard Hawley remains at the top of his game.

THE SMALL PRINT
WHO: Richard Hawley, support Dancing Years, Meilyr Jones
WHEN: November 8, 2015
WHERE: The Roundhouse, London

Past gigs: Richard Hawley 2012

Richard Hawley at Little Noise

What do you think?