Richard Hawley @ Sheffield Arena

Sheffield icon Richard Hawley returned to the city for his first local gig since the release of the Mercury Prize nominated Standing at the Sky’s Edge in 2012.

Sheffield Arena’s Steel Hall is the venue for the eagerly anticipated performance. Strong crowds welcome support acts, Dancing Years and Meilyr Jones, but as showtime approaches, the vast standing and seating areas of the room fill with devotees of all ages.

Double Reyt!’ Hawley’s opening gambit of crowd interaction is settling – if only for him. ‘We’re back,’ he nervously points out before treating the audience to an early rendition of classic track ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ after the blistering opener, ‘Which Way.’ He is calm, masterful at his art; and showing the excitement of a lad showing off in front of his mates – covering every spare bar with swirling guitar solos.

The setlist is carefully arranged: tracks from Hollow Meadows, such as ‘I Still Want You’ are beautifully rendered by the band’s violinist, Charlie Beresford, and sit effortlessly alongside classic tunes such as ‘Coles Corner.’ There are more than enough standout songs from the new album to add an extra dimension to Hawley’s beautifully melodic crooning and stand up rock and roll, which allow him to freely wield his arsenal of guitars to further impress the faithful.

There are points when Hawley has to rev up the crowd – ‘Come on! This is Sheffield!’ He implores us. He’s right; though perhaps the apparent muted response is more a crowd in awe than a dull response. A joyous singalong to smash hit ‘Open Up Your Door’ is enough to inject some love back in to the room; prompting Richard to ask the question, “Anyone from Pitsmoor?”

As Hawley points out at the end of the set, before the inevitable encore, ‘It says Richard Hawley on the ticket but it’s slightly misleading, ‘cos we’re a band.’ It is clear that behind him are four extraordinarily talented men who are deeply devoted to their leader’s songs. They are a delicate, waltzing ensemble; a coiled spring, prepared to release the kraken at any moment. The stage is a sea of pedal boards and effects, they’ve a sturdy back line and the tightest of rhythm sections which comprise the ‘Good Ship Hawley.’

There is a hush. Our Richard once more offers his sincere gratitude at the turnout of fans from all across the city and thanks them for making it a special evening. ‘We love you’ he expresses, as drummer Dean Beresford counts in the first bars of his classic closing track, ‘The Ocean.’

‘I’ll probably see you in Cole Brothers or summat.’

Double Reyt!

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