The intimate Bath Pavilion was the ideal venue for latest critics’ favourite and unlikely golden boy Richard Hawley. Wee it may be, but the Pavilion – a skating rink when it first opened in 1910 – has played host to some of the biggest names, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Where better to witness a steadily rising northern star…
Approaching its sandstone facade with eager footsteps, what struck me first was the diversity of the queue forming outside – which ranged from twenty-somethings to quinquagenarians and beyond. Feeling quite the culture vulture as part of a handful of under-30s, I joined the crowd jostling through the doors and quietly celebrated. There was a definite lack of glory-hunters, despite Hawley having punctured the mainstream and come to the attention of a younger audience, particularly since his Arctic Monkeys collaboration.
Support came from Lisa Halligan – an Irish songstress with a voice that instantly put me in mind of Ellie Goulding – which did set her at a slight disadvantage as far as any rave review was concerned, from this camp at any rate. However, unlike Goulding, who often pairs her raspy vocals with dubious electro-pop, Halligan chose to combine her sound with warm, plodding beats and jaunty, folky melodies which made everything much better.
Hawley’s performance, on the other hand, hadn’t even a trace of the ‘grin-and-bear’ about it. Our man of the moment opened with the booming ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, which reverberated around a roomful of admirers standing transfixed beneath a white linen canopy. Otherworldly lighting set the scene, which included leafy trees lining the back of the stage. ‘Don’t Stare at the Sun’ was rueful; melancholic tones melting into Hawley’s lamenting, weather-beaten vocal. Meanwhile, the softer ‘Seek It’ seemed to lull its audience into a silent reverie. The chat between numbers was equally as good, thanks to Hawley’s deliciously droll nature and drowsy Sheffield drawl; dripping with signature sarcasm. The more strapping ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’ offered a melodic, thunderous cacophony showcasing silkiest licks, and stood out as a song that would endure. During ‘Down in the Woods’, Hawley was plunged into shades of absinthe-green that illuminated the surrounding foliage and evoked an eerie feel, particularly when he steadily began to chant lines from nursery rhymes.
The sound was genuinely flawless throughout the set, which also included ‘Remorse Code’ and ‘Open Up your Door’ from 2009 album Truelove’s Gutter. ‘The Ocean’ closed, and we went away in high spirits, happy for Hawley and his well-deserved acclaim. On the whole, a heady concoction that left us a bit breathless – and all before hitting the Pavilion bar.