This was the third time I’ve seen Richard Hawley – the previous ones were in 2013 and 2015, both at Colston Hall (see below).
The first time we went, I knew next to nothing about him – SWMBO had heard him on BBC 6Music, saw that he was playing in Bristol and recommended we went. I was actually blown away by how good he was – great songs, a good voice and a fantastic guitar sound.
This time he was at the O2 Academy, which meant SWMBO wouldn’t be going – at 5ft 4in she prefers gigs where she can actually see, and standing at the Academy doesn’t appeal in the slightest.
Colston Hall being closed for a complete refit – and not re-opening until 2021 – is a bit of a pain.
I can confirm though that he’s still *really* good.
I know from the previous shows that he can be very loud when he cranks out the guitar solos, especially towards the end of the show, and given that the Academy is a much smaller venue than Colston Hall I decided to use my earplugs – I’d bought these after the Little Steven show at the Academy earlier in the year, which left me with muffled hearing and ringing in my ears for a couple of days.
The Sennheiser plugs did a good job – I could still hear the full sound clearly, but it was at a listenable volume.
In some ways it’s a bit of a shame as I think part of the live music experience is feeling the sheer power of the sound, but I have reached the point where it’s not worth risking it – as you get older, you’re more susceptible to damaging your hearing and I already have poor hearing in my left ear (a medical thing, not related to loud gigs, and an operation a few years ago failed to fix it) and have always had tinnitus (it took a long time to realise not everyone had a high-pitched ringing all the time), so it’s got to the point where it’s best not to risk it.
It’s a recurring theme at a lot of concerts I go to – I don’t necessarily know that many of the songs! I don’t actually listen to a lot of music, so have heard a couple of his albums a few times, and I’ve only heard the first single (“Off My Mind”) from his latest album. His music is definitely a case where I prefer the live versions to the studio recordings – after his live shows, they sound a bit tame.
The 4th song he did, “Standing at the Sky’s Edge” is a real favourite of mine. The lyrics are dark, the sound is big and brooding, and it’s all rather epic.
I do recognise a few though – “Tonight The Streets Are Ours”, “Don’t Stare At The Sun” and “Open Up Your Door”.
He plays quite a mix of styles – some really quite heavy stuff, but also some really quite mellow and rather lovely acoustic songs. In essence he’s actually a bit of a crooner, with a really nice warm voice. Albeit sometimes with a loud guitar solo thrown in at the end.
Last time we saw him, someone sat near us said that they didn’t understand why he did the loud stuff, but to be honest that what I prefer!
The two songs in the encore were a bit different – a more experimental sound, loud guitar wig-outs with bits of feedback. Sounded great though!
Thoroughly recommended, and I’ll definitely try to go and see him again next time he comes to Bristol.
One footnote – I work in a team of 9 people, and 4 of us were at the show, all having booked separately!