Richard Hawley


In the words of Chandler Bing, could things BE anymore Manchester, as I step out of my apartment building and step pretty straight into John Thomson, walking into the Dakota Hotel opposite. It’s a scene from Cold Feet (and indeed my street was in one of those luxurious pan shots across the Manchester skyline in the last series).

The answer should be none. None more Manchester. And yet, and yet – and perhaps inevitably – things DO indeed become more Manchester. For inside the frayed hulk of the Albert Hall, I bump into Mani at – where else – the bar, with less hair, but the same smile, as the last time I interviewed him.

We are here for Sheffield’s finest, of course, and the couple of pre-gig liveners at Brew Dog beforehand means we’ve missed the Southend support – Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – which I am at peace with because I reviewed him previously for Silent Radio, some years ago, and was told that that was his farewell tour. Can’t trust these pesky musicians.

There’s not many people that can rock the so-called Canadian Tuxedo, but Hawley steps purposefully onto the stage in double denim, with a solid seam of the 1950s in his quiffed hair and riveted clothing. And that carries through to the music, which swings with a real 501 vibe, matching Hawley’s turned up jeans.

First track is ‘Off My Mind’, the rockier opener to Hawley’s eighth studio album, this year’s Further. A solid, blues-y stonker, I am more taken with Hawley’s slower, seedier, late night atmospherics and for me, the evening really picks up with the ever gorgeous ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’. And it’s a shame there’s no place tonight for the equally gorgeous ‘My Little Treasures’ from the new LP, although nine tracks from that album do get an airing because tonight, the set, is his… largely drawn, understandably, from new material, although there is a warm reaction to older cuts like ‘Coles Corner’ and ‘Open Up Your Door’.

Between tracks, Hawley exchanges banter with the audience, at one point commenting: “This is my favourite venue in England. We played it when it first opened and we couldn’t believe it hadn’t been used in so long. So well done Manchester”. Tonight the Albert Hall is both majestic and decaying in equal measure, like a grand old dame gone to seed, growing old disgracefully. It is also fit to bursting, as though that grand old dame might burst out from her corset, and yet the crowd are rather supine and hypnogogic, a quality Hawley comments on several times, although the salt and pepper nature of the crowds’ heads (from my perspective on the balcony) might suggest they’re possibly not used to being out this late. Then again, Hawley’s voice on tracks like ‘Emilina Says’ does have that quality about it… and those are the tracks I love best. Although he looks like a rocker, I prefer his crooning, holding close to the mic, as well as with the cherry red guitar strung across his neck, the somnambulant timbre to his voice in a permanent hauntological reverb.

Things pick up when Clive Mellor joins on harmonica, battling Hawley’s guitar, distorted, driven through many peddle effects. “We met in The Castle Pub, shitfaced,” Hawley explains. “That’s the story”. Hawley pushes his guitar up to the old grey Fender amps, looking for feedback, as the night pushes to a climax. “It means a lot for us to go down well in Manchester”, he says, signing off just like he once penned songs for those signing on. “From Sheffield with love”.

Each song is an adult lullaby, stroking your soul, singing “loneliness is not the same as being on your own” on the track ‘Not Lonely’, his voice the sonorous equivalent of having a lovely little nap. Hawley encourages you to feel there’s a chance everything might just be OK…. when there’s undoubtedly a lot that’s not OK. He ends the night with ‘Heart of Oak’, and then the lullabies are over and Manchester heads for its collective bed. There are no more Manchester moments as I walk back to my place. But tonight, these streets are ours.

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…