Sheffield is responsible for a plethora of musical history and Richard Hawley has been accepted as one of Sheffield’s true successes. Tonight is one of many homecoming gigs for the local hero, recently boosted by yet another Mercury Prize nomination.
Dressed in his usual attire complete with caricature quiff, the singer rumbles on stage to the echoing throngs of ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, engulfed by a green backdrop. Launching into ‘Don’t Stare at the Sun’ a wall of guitars almost throws the audience into their seats, fixated on the layers of thronging basslines and chugging drums.
Nodding towards his fellow residents Hawley’s onstage persona is mixed with Oasis swagger and chatter from a local of the roughest pub in the north. Referring to the old Coal Brothers department store (now a John Lewis), the steelworkers and Sheffield’s glory days, middle-aged supporters gaze inspired by his working class ideals (including a nod to “arseholes Cameron and Clegg”).
But it’s when Hawley’s at his quietest, when you can hear a pin drop that his thick, smooth voice shines through the hall only accentuating the beautiful surroundings. ‘Soldier On’ is a quiet, atmospheric number, building to such a climax that you can’t help but have a tear in your eye as it reaches that final crescendo. Yet ‘Open up Your Door’ takes you into intimate surroundings, creating that connection between only Hawley and you as the guitar sings with such a warm resonance. ‘The Streets Are Ours’ dances with its now famous hook, with progression towards ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ leading with overlong instrumentals and rib-shaking bass.
Breaking off for a moment, he surveys the surroundings to quip, “Can I just say what’s happened to me – what’s happened to us – all this, will never change me. I’ll always be the speccy boy from Pitsmoor and I’m proud of it.”
As the crowd stands for the second ovation of the night, it’s clear Richard Hawley is proud of his roots. He may hark back to the old days, but he’s stuck through the thick and thin, and even when you’re riding high, that will always give you hometown respect.
Words by Ruth Offord