Over the past ten years Liverpool Music Week has seen some amazing acts perform across the city’s great venues. This year sees another stellar line-up featuring Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Deerhunter, Gang of Four and many more. Topping the bill this past Friday was the one-and-only Richard Hawley who opened this year’s event at The Dome, centrepiece of the architecturally stunning Grand Central Hall. The 1,200 capacity venue sadly isn’t used as much as it perhaps could be for live music. It could certainly do with a bit of work, but there’s little doubt that the former Methodist Church is one of Liverpool’s finest venues.
Support for the evening was provided by John Joseph Brill and former Race Horses frontman, Meilyr Jones. John Joseph Brill opened up the evening with his sincere, baritone vocals and passionate delivery, his short solo set serving as a warm-up gig before he heads out on tour next month. Meilyr Jones began his set with a solo piano piece before being his four band member joined in for what was a lively and eclectic performance, with Jones very animated throughout. Fans of Richard Hawley will get to see more of Jones as he joins Hawley for a handful of dates during early November.
With the main floor starting to fill up to capacity, it was a good time to head upstairs to the Victorian-style seating to seek out a better view while awaiting the man himself. Upon entering the stage Hawley kept his introduction short, simply announcing: “We’re back!” Kicking off his 14-song set you couldn’t have asked for a better opening run of songs, starting with “Which Way” from his new album Hollow Meadows, he followed this with the classic “Tonight The Streets Are Ours,” from 2007’s Lady’s Bridge. The title-track from his 2012 album rocked-up, psychedelia tinged Standing At The Sky’s Edge was next-up, showcasing his stunning baritone and touching lyrics, seeing things out with a finale of roaring guitars to get things off to an absolute flyer.
Being only the second show of his current tour, and his first since 2013 after a slipped disc kept him out of action, the former Longpigs and Pulp guitarist was clearly wasting no time getting back into the swing of things. His set primarily consisted of material taken from his latest album, with songs from his 2012 LP also featuring quite prominently. But there was room for a few numbers from his softer, earlier works too. After the blazing “Leave Your Body Behind You,” his set took on a gentler tone with “Sometimes I Feel” and “Tuesday PM” featuring either side of the classic “Open Up Your Door” from 2009’s Truelove’s Gutter, which received some of the loudest cheers of the night.
Hawley has frequently sought inspiration from his native city of Sheffield while penning his albums, featuring lovelorn stories with a heavy dose of nostalgia that are emotionally rich and beautifully melancholic. His 2012 release however contained more of a political theme, with lyrics focussing on the historical battles that have been won and lost by the people of Sheffield, with Hawley surveyed the land of his birth from Skye Edge, a hillside area overlooking the city centre. It was from this album where the next three songs came, with an extended version of “Down in the Woods” a particular highlight.
After introducing the band, the excellent “Heart of Oak” ended the main set and saw them leaving the stage to a rapturous applause. Keeping the crowd waiting, they eventually re-emerged for the encore with Hawley playing “What Love Means,” describing it as “one of the quietest songs I’ve ever written.” Once they were instructed to “shut the f*ck up!” by a booming voice, the crowd stopped chattering and duly obliged. But not before Hawley asked if he could “bring that man on the rest of the tour.” The mood set perfectly for the night’s closer, “The Ocean,” from what many consider to be his best album to date, 2005’s Coles Corner.
Hawley is clearly greatly adored by his fans, holding an almost hero-like status among them. With a performance like this one it’s not hard to see why. What a splendid way to kick off Liverpool Music Week 2015.