When the Arctic Monkeys won the Mercury Music Prize in 2006, they sportingly declared that fellow nominee Richard Hawley should have won. “Call the police”, they said. “Richard Hawley’s been robbed!”. Yet, the bequiffed Englishman has always seemed like the perennial underdog, a status he appears comfortable with. After all, his music often chronicles the doomed fortunes of the inhabitants of his native Sheffield, while his old-school sartorial choices betray a man impervious to modern fads and fashion.
It leads to a worry that his moment in the (evening) sun at Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens might seem like an overly-ambitious venture. He attracts a sizeable crowd but it’s not sold out and his late-night tales of love and loss might be better suited to an indoor venue.
Yet these fears prove mostly unfounded. As the show progresses, we see that Hawley has enough versatility in his back-catalogue to make the night work. ‘Which Way’ from last year’s underrated opus Hollow Meadows is an arresting opener while ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ is majestic and life-affirming. Later, Hawley’s weathered croon is to the fore on the gorgeous ‘I Still Want You’ – an unashamedly romantic ode to the pitfalls and rewards of long-term relationships.
Hawley has a full-band with him, giving the songs added heft on an outdoor stage. It’s the light and shade in the set, the effortless switch from tender romanticism to vaguely psychedelic rock that ultimately proves to be a winning formula. This is further reiterated when Hawley and his band run through ‘Don’t Stare At The Sun’ and ‘Heart of Oak’ and later round it all off with a shimmering rendition of ‘The Ocean’ from 2005’s Coles’s Corner.
In essence, it’s a back-to-basics show as Hawley is not one for visual extravagance or contrived showmanship. Instead, we get great songs with no dip in quality, played with heart and vigour. Throw in his sardonic Northern humour and one can see how he continues to win over crowds with ease. Tonight, under a muggy night sky in Dublin city centre, that’s certainly what he does.