DATE: Friday 8th June 2012
VENUE: HMV Forum, Kentish Town, London
COST: £20 plus booking fee
OUR VERDICT: Guitar Heaven
Arriving at the HMV Forum, the place was getting full – this was a sell-out gig.
The support act caught our ears. On stage with no microphones, this was a 100% instrumental band and they certainly rocked. The set up was drums, bass and two guitarists, one of which also doubled on keyboard which really added to their sound. What we heard were some great surf instrumentals with a real Joe Meek influence. With no mics on stage, they couldn’t announce any of the tunes they were playing but they sounded great and were head nodding tunes. As their set came to an end, the guitarist shouted out to the crowd (albeit hard to hear as he had no mic) that they had a CD for sale at the back. The Beeb went off in search of it and came back with a little package in Welsh – Y Niwl was the name of the band, are from North Wales and they are well worth checking out. The audience were certainly receptive to them as well.
We held our spot, just a few feet from the front barrier as the stage was set up for the headline act. At nine o’clock the lights went out and the black curtain was raised to reveal a bit of a woodland setting, trees everywhere, and the band taking up their positions in amongst them. The scenery emphasised Richard’s woodland themed latest album cover and to a large cheer, Richard Hawley was wheeled onto the stage. At first we thought it was a joke and he would suddenly spring from the wheelchair, do a couple of somersaults and launch into his set. As he approached the mic, we realised it was for real and he explained he had broken his leg a few days before in the most un-rock-and-roll way (slipped on a marble staircase in Barcelona!). So we got a set from the coolest guy, with him rocking out, sitting on a stool with his left leg extended out and firmly plastercasted up! “Sitting At The Sky’s Edge,” he said, as opposed to the album title, “Standing At The Sky’s Edge.”
His whole show was nothing short of terrific. The sound was top quality, with every instrument and every vocal clearly audible, nothing drowned out in the mix. His songs are hauntingly atmospheric, very psychedelic, starting slowly, almost quietly and building into a great crescendo of sound which just filled your ears and sounded amazing. The Hawley wall of sound sounded fabulous live, with the guitars driving that psychedelic vibe with keyboards (from Jon Trier) really adding a lot.
The show opened with the title track from his latest album “Standing at the Sky’s Edge” and the accompanying video was played on the big screens hanging either side of the stage. The rest of the set included songs from that album plus some older ones. Richard’s vocals were spot on and highlights for us were “Tonight the Streets Are Ours” and “Open Up Your Door” and “Hotel Room” which is the best fifties song that was never recorded in that decade. The last song of the main set was “Down in the Woods” which was really psychedelic and wonderful. We thought this would go down well with a Cherry Bluestorms’ audience, and a bit of finger cymbals added would really round it off. The whole set was really quite incredible.
The bass player, Colin Elliot (who also co-produced the new album) and the drummer gave, as you would expect, the great rhythm of the whole set, but at one stage, with a song not needing a big drum beat, Dean Beresford put his drumsticks to one side and hit the skins with his hands only. Sounded good.
We have to give a shout out to the backing vocalists who were buried a bit by foliage, but added some lovely harmony to the songs from the new album
We got an encore, with Richard Hawley being wheeled off and then wheeled back on to the stage after the crowd had almost stomped a hole in the floor of the Forum. We were given a choice of a one-song rock-out encore or a two song encore but we would have to be very quiet for the first song as it was a soft one……. The latter is what we got, and Richard got a very well behaved audience in return as he delivered a terrific “For Your Lover Give Some Time”. Then, finishing with “The Ocean”, the show came to an end.
When The Beeb grows up (!) he wants to play in Richard Hawley’s band so he can play with all those guitars we saw tonight. Richard played a different guitar for just about every song, from Gretsch to Gibson to Danelectro to Rickenbacker, and it was the seventh or eighth song before we saw a guitar being used again!! His lead guitarist, Shez Sheridan was just superb, and he had a great array of guitars as well including a 12 string Burns, acoustic, and a lapsteel. He really seemed to enjoy himself on stage and he made guitar playing look easy!
When you think of the reasons some artists give for pulling a gig, you realise just what an old school trooper Richard Hawley is. Hero!