Richard Hawley’s sixth album, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, seems a striking departure from the retro melancholy of his past work. Nominated for the prestigious Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize for the second time, a number of the award’s inquisitors have undoubtedly diluted the customary crowd of drape coat wearing, side burn sporting Hawley lookalikes. Still, the coiffured quiff, seems to be in-vogue at Oxford Road’s Manchester Academy.
Beginning with the title track of his sixth album, Hawley’s voice can be heard far more strikingly than it is on the record, as the intensity of the electronic effects is lost around the venue. His burdened voice has maintained its impressive tone, which cuts through the chatter that’s spread throughout the hall. “You lot must be loaded” Hawley accuses, “if you want to talk, why not stay at home?” As a hypocritical raucous cheer erupts, the band begins ‘Don’t Stare at the Sun’ a second track from the critically acclaimed new release.
“That song’s about flying a kite with my child” he tells the crowd, “but it’s not as auspicious as it sounds, I was off my fucking head on acid”. Hawley’s between-song anecdotes are nearly as entertaining as his music, with tales of 2 day benders and drunken attempts at chores.
The gripping, ‘Down in the Woods’ tells of “stolen love under a canopy of tress”, which seems fitting as the stage is decorated with half a dozen spindly birches. Whilst, the instantly recognisable ‘Tonight the Streets are Ours’ which featured on the Oscar nominated 2010 Banksy film Exit Through the Gift Shop is entrancing and has the crowd captured by the dreamlike sound.
Despite, for the majority of the concert, not being fully persuaded that merely being slowly soothed into a comfortable haze was enough, the tender delivery of the 2009 track ‘Open up Your Door’ was a convincing showcase of Hawley’s tremendous talents as a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter and cast away all previous doubt.