|Review: Richard Hawley, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Fri 22nd Feb 2013|
|Written by Emma Clement|
|Wednesday, 06 March 2013|
The Corn Exchange’s bar has run out of Guinness, there’s a small array of trees on the stage and, when viewed from above, a significant proportion of the crowd is obviously balding: that’s right, Sheffield’s alt-rock guitar extraordinaire Richard Hawley’s in town.
Hawley’s support act was a fairly forgettable buttoned-up-shirts and matching-haircuts indie outfit called The Crookes. Sounding uncannily like the Grease soundtrack would’ve if it had been recorded by The Vaccines, their tunes definitely caught the crowd’s attention later in the set, despite an almost annoyingly exuberant front-man.
But the light, boppy and amused atmosphere changed completely once Hawley took to the stage with his leather jacket and well-perfected quiff. Opening with the awe-inspiring Standing at the Sky’s Edge, the five-piece band immediately proved that they were aiming to defy expectations.
Hawley’s stage presence was cool and effective in building a “lads’ night out at the local” atmosphere; joking about the number of guitar changes he had, responding to hecklers in the crowd and cracking out many a sarcastic line such as, “call me old fashioned but I’m going to play a song now.” However, this flexibility and banter died during the songs, with each one being executed systematically and sleekly. The backing band were very composed and professional – the keyboard player even looked bored in place – but managed to veer clear from appearing static.
As the show progressed, the predictability of Hawley’s song structure became more apparent, especially when highlighted by the otherwise fantastic lighting changes. The majority of songs followed a standard formula of an oozing, slow beginning with a sudden and sweeping build-up, inevitably followed by a ripping guitar solo from Hawley.
The show was punctuated by some really stand-out tunes: in particular, the driving Leave Your Body Behind You and the catchy Tonight the Streets Are Ours brought movement to the mosh pit. But the slow and pensive Remorse Code really solidified what Hawley and his band are good at. The 9 minute long tune - most likely filed as ‘background music’ in many a music collection - was transformed into an all-encompassing revelry of incredible depth. The change in atmosphere certainly proved that Hawley’s music is more suited to being played live and loud than constrained to low volumes during dinner parties.