Music review: Richard Hawley, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow

In amongst the political asides, Richard Hawley delivered a set that combined the musically tender and the lyrically bittersweet to powerful effect, writes David Pollock

Richard Hawley
Richard Hawley

Richard Hawley, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow ****

“It's nice, I like it here,” said Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley, looking around Kelvingrove Bandstand’s airy amphitheatre as the sun began to go down on a bright, blue-skied Saturday night. “It'll probably pish it down now… look at me, I've only been in Glasgow for one day, and [I’m saying] ‘pish’.”

The sense of solidarity between artist and crowd was strong, not least because he took a moment to say “I wish I was Scottish, Irish or Welsh” and declare his… let’s say, popular dissatisfaction with the UK government (it was much swearier than that). In fact, if the words of his warm song of solidarity Tonight the Streets Are Ours don’t come true soon, he noted, he might even buy a house up here.

Hawley’s political interventions were impassioned asides, though, next to a familiar set drawn from a career which has fused the musically tender and the lyrically bittersweet to powerful effect. Off My Mind and Alone were cases in point, and early on he played Further, the title track of his most recent album, which he noted “came out about 16 years ago” (it was only 2019, but then the Covid years felt like a lifetime).

It was pointed out before I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me that “you can move to this one, just a little bit” and Emelina Says was introduced as a song “about pointless male jealousy… any jealous pointless males in the audience?” Hawley makes a lot of sad man music but it’s as charming and self-deprecating as he is, and his melodies are gorgeous, even on the gruff murder ballad Standing at the Sky’s Edge or the noisier Time Is.

Through Coles Corner, Open Up the Door, The Ocean and Is There a Pill?, the sense of masterfully anthemic intimacy only grew, a nice soundtrack for the striking backdrop. Hopefully the next record doesn’t feel like it’s 16 years away.