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Sincerity and warmth from romantic Mr Hawley.

Richard Hawley, Sage Gateshead Richard Hawley greeted all three floors of the packed Sage 1 auditorium with a sincere "Good to be back". Joined by his band, "my friends and team", they opened conventionally with a song from the latest album, Which Way from Hollow Meadows.

Hawley names his albums after places in his native Sheffield. Hollow Meadows is a bleak spot on the Snake Pass, on the city's outskirts (close to where I grew up), more Peak District than urban inner city. Atmospheric and haunting, it sent a shiver up my spine.

The set was full of contrasts. Hawley unashamedly declared that much of his music is miserable, which was fair comment.

It is also fair to say that he could be described as a soft romantic, with a baritone voice and looks that would have worked well for a 1950s matinee idol.

His music has a fresh, contemporary sound. Its heritage is rock and roll, rock and 1990s indy music.

Delay and echo are strong features of Hawley's guitar and vocals. Much of the set was slow and laid-back, though with occasional upbeat rockier songs.

Over the evening he frequently swapped between acoustic and electric guitars.

The impressive band comprised guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, drums and vocal harmony, dovetailing perfectly so that it all came over as highly structured and produced, with minimal improvisation.

Hawley remarked that while it had his name on the ticket, it was a band performance.

The concert ended with a favourite, The Ocean. Even though some of his songs are miserable, Hawley's stage persona is chummy and cheerful. The fans went home happy. Martin Ellis

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 5, 2015
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