REVIEW: Richard Hawley, Home Gathering, Hoults Yard, Newcastle

Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering in Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.
Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering in Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Sheffield crooner Richard Hawley might have struck some people as an odd choice to headline the first night of a folk music festival.

But North East family band The Unthanks, who curated the two-day Home Gathering, got their choice spot on, if the delighted reaction of the sold-out crowd at Hoults Yard on Friday night was anything to go by.

Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

For although he usually performs with a full band, this time Hawley - the one-time Pulp guitarist who has become an under-rated national treasure as a singer-songwriter - played a stripped-down show.

Accompanied by only his regular sidekick Shez Sheridan - an excellent and in-demand guitarist in his own right - he enthralled the Warehouse 34 audience with a set of choice cuts from a back catalogue which now stretches to seven albums.

Hawley's inspiration largely comes from his native city, and 1960s rockabilly, and he says he's "only ever wanted to make music that's soulful, that has some depth and heart in it" - and there was plenty of that here.

He began with a wonderful rendition of As The Dawn Breaks, the opening track from 2009's Truelove's Gutter album, and it was to provide four of the 11 songs which made up tonight's show.

Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

It was followed by another delicate cut from the same record, Ashes On The Fire, and you already had the sense this was going to be a very special evening in the company of a very special artist.

Tonight The Streets Are Ours, the third song in, went even further back in time, to 2007's Lady's Bridge album, and is one of my favourite Hawley songs.

In truth, its nostalgic tone makes it sound like it could have been written 50 years ago, let alone a mere decade or so, and the arrangement here was like none I've ever heard before, sparse but beautiful, and showing just what a skilled musician Hawley is.

Playing such a different show meant, of course, that the heavier songs that have become such setlist staples in recent years were nowhere to be heard - there was no Down In The Woods, no Standing At The Sky's Edge, no Leave Your Body Behind You.

Shez Sheridan and Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Shez Sheridan and Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

In their place we were treated to some classics which are aired all-too-rarely these days - the highlight of my night being Remorse Code, another Truelove's Gutter masterpiece.

Incredibly, some people found it necessary to talk among themselves during fan favourite Lady Solitude, but they were soon 'shushed', as was the one individual who whooped and clapped like a seal - he might have been enjoying himself, but it did spoil the moment somewhat.

Hawley ended his all-too-brief 10-song main set with Long Time Down, one of the key tracks from latest album Hollow Meadows, before he and Sheridan returned for an encore of that record's standout song, Heart Of Oak.

I shouldn't finish without mentioning the support band, excellent Teesside folk trio The Young 'Uns, who perform mostly a capella songs with one or two subtly-accompanied numbers, with a big dose of humour thrown in.

Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Richard Hawley performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

They're well worth seeing if you get the chance, even if you think folk is not your thing, with their next local gig being at Hartlepool Folk Festival on October 22.

Richard Hawley's sideman Shez Sheridan performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Richard Hawley's sideman Shez Sheridan performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Young 'Uns performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Young 'Uns performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Young 'Uns performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Young 'Uns performing at Home Gathering at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.