Richard Hawley reminds me that there are real musicians left out there. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing bad about young indie kids cranking it out on their guitars and beating feverishly on their drums, or in some cases their drum machines. Maybe I am just a little burned out on the juvenileness that that scene can create. Therefore, I must admit, I was really looking forward to seeing Richard Hawley play at Sin-e in New York last night. Most people know him as that guy that is on Mute that used to play in the Britpop band The Longpigs, and later on in Pulp during the This Is Hardcore days. What most people don't know is that Hawley was ready to leave the music industry altogether at one point, that is until his longtime Pulp-mates Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey heard some of his solo demos and pushed him to work on his solo career. (I knew there was a reason Pulp was my favorite band!) Now, with three albums under his belt, I finally got my first chance to witness him live.
Richard took the stage about 20 minutes late. An old co-worker of mine once said that any band has 45 minutes of his time; it was up to the band how it was spent. I was kinda beginning to feel the same way since I had to run over to another show as soon as this one was over. All of that ill will was quickly swept away under the carpet as I saw Richard Hawley, and his full band, walk up onto the stage. His humor was intact and it was amazing to see the sold out concertgoers reaction. What was even more amazing was that there were people from all walks of life in the audience, from the 50-year-old women to the industry suits, and even a few hipsters for good measure. Richard warmed the crowd up with a story about an old professor giving him an upright bass like his bandmate had, only to have the professor call the cops and report it stolen. After which he said "Let's ballad!" Once his antics were completed he began his set with "Coles Corner", off his new album. If you have yet to check out his new album then you really are missing out. Seriously, find a copy and listen to it now. It is full of old school Frank Sinatra meets Johnny Cash ballads. Plus, the whole album is written about love. As trite as that might sound, it really is nice. Apparently Coles Corner is a real place in Sheffield where lovers used to meet for dates. Once this song was over he made point to talk to the audience again about his travels to SXSW (where he bought some killer boots), Los Angeles, and New York. Out of all three he claimed New York was his favorite place with the best people. (Hello, we live here too!)
The next song that was played was "Just Like The Rain". His vocals came through as clear as they are on the recording. Once more, I think this is something to be said about his talent. The reason I say this is because most of the shows I have seen at Sin-e sound like complete rubbish. Not Richard Hawley and his band though. Each and every person of the five-man group were true professionals and possessed an insane amount of talent. Another highlight of his set was "The Ocean", where Richard's voice was less Johnny Cash/Sinatra and more Nick Cave. What makes this song even more beautiful is that he wrote it for his wife. Right before he mentioned this, he made sure and reminded us that it has been a while since he has seen her and things would be less romantic than this song when he was with her next. "Hotel Room" was brilliant as well. He prefaced this song by saying this was about a couple on their anniversary where everything was going well, they went to a hotel, spent the night together, and the next day broke up. I absolutely adored how he connected with his audience. I didn't feel like I was watching a show in an overcrowded venue. I felt like Richard and I were hanging out by ourselves, listening to old 45s and getting to know each other. He was enchanting, charming, and personal; just like his music. Unfortunately, I had to leave the set all too early as I had another show to attend, and Richard went on later than expected. I can tell you one thing though. The next time he is in New York I will be there, front row again, with no other obligations that night. Richard Hawley is the real deal.