Some middle aged men assuage their impending mortality by buying a red convertible and driving to the south of France whilst others suck in their gut and misguidedly try chatting up the office temp. Richard Hawley deals with his existential mid-life crisis by (for the most part) ditching the glitter-ball torch songs that made him the critic’s darling and whacking up the dials to 11. Many of tonight's Brightonians expecting a cosy evening of balladry get an abrupt shock as Hawley showcases much of his new album Standing At The Sky's Edge in all its bombastic glory. Hawley's opening salvo is:
"Right! Lets have it."
I detect a strong Doors influence in the defiantly loud psychedelia of the album's title track. Its sets the tone for much of the new material which is strong on swampy bass, wailing guitars and walls of feedback. It's certainly not the sort of album you can play at bedtime.
I don't know what it is about the Sheffield water but it has strong "banter" properties. Jarvis Cocker, Alex Turner and Richard Hawley are all known as much for their bon mots as they are for their music.
"Did you know Kate Middleton is an anagram of Naked Tit Model?"
Hawley tells us apropos of nothing.
You don't get too many songs about flying kites but Don't Stare At The Sun blends Hawley's mellow baritone with a solo that echoes John Barry's Theme from the Ipcress File. It starts at a funeral pace before bursting into a crescendo of noise like a cosmic firework.
As if realising that he is danger of scaring off all the oldies Hawley dials it down a notch and plays a few of what I like to call "swayers". Hotel Room shows there is a marked difference between his old material and the new stuff. Without any sense of irony the couples in the audience start to lovingly embrace despite Hawley notifying them that the song is about the bleak subject of addiction.
Hawley explains that Tonight The Streets Are Ours Song was requested by reclusive artist Banksy for use on his film Exit Through The Gift Shop. Hawley thought it was Pulp drummer Nick Banks winding him up and told him to fuck off. It sounds a lot less lush than it does on record but that is to be expected.
Seek It bucks the trend for psychedelia on the new album and is resolutely old school Hawley with it rolling melody and tongue in cheek lyrics.
"I got a dream and you were in it
We got naked and can't remember what happened next
It was weird."
During Soldier On we are treated to a bit of lap steel courtesy of long time friend and collaborator Shez Sheridan. You can hear a pin drop in the church of Hawley until the atmosphere is suddenly shattered as his Gretsch obliterates the calm with a coruscating wall of noise. I have never seen a performer change guitars as often as Richard as he literally has the guitar tech running on between every song. Even Prince would think it extravagant.
Leave Your Body Behind You sounds like Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds with king sized riffs and a trippy baseline. It is the rockiest I have ever heard him sound and its life-affirming stuff
"Before you leave let me tell you guys are fucking better than Portsmouth."
The main set is finished off with a reverb packed Down In The Woods which sounds like it could have been written in 1969. Corrosive waves of feedback drown the audience and to be honest it drags on too long. There is only so much soloing a man can take.
After a brief encore Hawley digs out his familiar late father's orange Gretch Nashville 1963 also known as "his baby" for a run through of Lady Solitude which placates all the swayers with ear ache. Requests for the best pub in Brighton are met with chorus of choices which suggest there are many alcoholics in the audience.
Hawley aptly ends with a widescreen version of The Ocean. These slow burning ballads are his bread and butter and he does them with panache. The audience leave happy perhaps inspired to dig out those Pink Floyd albums they bought first time round.
Standing At The Sky's Edge
Don't Stare At The Sun
Tonight The Streets Are Ours
Blinded By Love
Leave Your Body Behind You
Open Up Your Door
Down In The Woods