Alex O'Connell review from The Times 20 February 2017
FIRST NIGHT REVIEW
Pop: Richard Hawley at the Union Chapel, N1
The singer delivered an inspiring, soulful set with a mighty closing number that threatened to blow out the venue’s stained-glass windows
Charity gigs can so easily fall into Oscar-speech territory with each song sandwiched between well-meaning sanctimony and stats-bombing. In the worst cases you leave feeling guilty and musically frustrated.
Richard Hawley and friends’ gig for War Child Brits Week was a case study in making it work: the cause articulated in a swift, useful address (the box office was funding a trip to find vulnerable children in Mosul) followed by a soulful set from Hawley with a mighty finale, assisted by Corinne Bailey Rae and Paul weller.
Hawley, in double denim with trademark oily, 1950s-throwback quiff, is never the most charismatic performer — “providing much-needed glamour” he said of Bailey Rae when she came on stage in a white gown. Yet his deep, Orbison-like voice, emotional lyrics and heart-on-both-sleeves approach means you can’t help but go home with a little piece of soul in your pocket.
The band kicked off the night with As the Dawn Breaks, an ode to his hometown of Sheffield taken from his album Truelove’s Gutter, moving on to a beautiful version of Ashes on the Fire before picking up the pace with the glorious, anthemic Tonight the Streets are Ours, from the album Lady’s Bridge, named after a Sheffield landmark.
Hawley makes for an arch compere and his story about how he wrote his beautiful love song For Your Lover Give Some Time for his wife because he “wanted a shag” went down well with the middle-aged couples in the audience who, when they weren’t listening to the music were taking photos of the historic tiles in the crypt. (The epilogue? Mrs Hawley listened to it and then asked, “So, what’s for tea?”)
One of the stars of the night was Clive Mellor, Hawley’s regular harmonica wizard, who joined him on Standing at the Sky’s Edge, as well as on their version of Lee Hazlewood and Sanford Clark’s classic cowboy number, Son of a Gun — taught to Hawley by his late father. It was magnificent, Hawley’s voice giving Duane Eddy a run for his money.
They bowed out with the Beatles’ psychedelic classic Tomorrow Never Knows with Bailey Rae and weller. Their voices and the blissful cacophony of guitars and keyboards almost blew out the stained-glass windows of James Cubitt’s gothic revival masterpiece.