Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
“I wrote this song for my wife,” announced Richard Hawley in his dry Sheffield baritone, eliciting the expected coo from the audience. “I thought,” he continued, “if I wrote the most romantic song of all time – well, in our house – I might get a shag. Don’t let any songwriter lie to you, it’s all about shagging.” It wasn’t quite the romantic payoff many had expected, although the anecdote summed up his character as a songwriter; romantic, yearning, but still very male.
This low-key acoustic set was the perfect environment in which to experience the nuances of Hawley’s style, with just the sometime member of Sheffield groups the Longpigs and Pulp standing before us on electric guitar, his only accomplice, guitarist Shez, seated alongside. “Thanks for coming to see two old guys with glasses,” murmured Hawley. “Our drummer’s on the T-shirt stall tonight, he’s been very naughty.”
Yet for all his easy, working man’s club banter, his voice is a soulful, hopeful croon amid the neon-streaked optimism of Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the bittersweet melody of Nothing Like a Friend and Don’t Stare at the Sun’s mournful harmony. Heart of Oak, he said, was written for musician Norma Waterson, and What Love Means for his daughter as she left home. “We love Scottish music very much, coming to play for you guys is like selling fridges to Eskimos,” was his final jokey line; yet his musical persona is unique, and not easily replicated.