Following a solid if sedate support set from an American with an acoustic guitar called David, on came a bespectacled, tall person from Sheffield who was not called Jarvis. Dressed in denim and looking more like a computer geek than a pop star, Richard Hawley greeted us in a broad Yorkshire accent and set off to debut his solo music in London to an attentive audience.
His entire record company was present for his only London show and, from the soundings we took, much of the audience hadn’t heard his excellent eponymously titled debut solo album yet. It was for this reason, perhaps, that they listened and clapped politiely; but the reaction may also have been to do with the type of music Hawley purveys. Despite a band which included drums, bass and keyboards, you could still almost hear a pin drop in this most civilised of venues.
His mini-album, released a year previously, had all of its tracks played, with several previously unheard tracks offered up for the first time. The ’50s feel to the guitar work was backed with drums which almost seemed to apologise for being loud. The first single, the Everley Brothers-esque Bang To Rights, had knowing audience members swaying with the Orbison-influenced beat, while new single Coming Home was a treat to hear live.
Anyone expecting to hear music like that which he played with Pulp and All Saints would have been disappointed. As a session guitarist, Hawley has played with these and many other bands. Clearly he has spent time honing his ouevre and now knows his music. It is a delight to hear someone trying something different, not lunging straight into Beatles impersonations or R&B, both of which dominate UK music to much too great an extent just now. Hawley’s ’50s-influenced sound is a breath of fresh air.
The missing link between Roy Orbison and Jarvis Cocker? Just possibly. It’s almost as if The Beatles had never existed.