Live music: Richard Hawley - Cork Opera House

4/5
Live music: Richard Hawley - Cork Opera House

Matching the raspy-sweet voice of a cigar-toting cherub with the cavernous guitar sound of a pit bull at the gates of hell, Richard Hawley owns his own unique space in the rock pantheon.

Casual radio listeners will be familiar with Hawley’s big tunes and sometimes romantic lyrics. Adjectives like romantic and nostalgic do tell at least a partial truth; the former Pulp guitarist is sweet at the surface. But his dedicated followers will know that this is just the tip of an incredible iceberg.

Yes, above the waterline are mellow hits like ‘Open Up Your Door’, ‘Streets Are Ours’ and ‘I Still Want You’, but these are made all the sweeter for being offset against the magical dark stuff beneath, spine- shivering gems like ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’, ‘Standing At the Sky’s Edge’ and ‘There’s A Storm Comin’.’

A remarkable singer and guitarist, the beauty of Hawley’s theatrical performance, for which the Opera House is an ideal setting, is the seeming openness with which he delivers such a wide range of colours and emotions; sometimes several emotions are all rolled out at once.

“I wrote this next song [‘What Love Means’] on the day my daughter left home. It made me cry ... with laughter. Funny, since then we’ve never been closer.”

While he has the name for being changeable, he’s in sparkling form here. He asks the audience for the name of a good local pub, and he’s met with a volley of replies. The Cork accents clearly throw him, as he asks a band member to pass the phrase book.

Hawley opens the night by welcoming the audience on board his airline; every now and then, he returns to stretch the metaphor a little more.

“Thank you for flying with Air Hawley,” he said. “Check your seatbelt. Relax, enjoy the flight. We’re doing all the work. You’re doing fuck all, but that’s okay; you’ve paid for the privilege.”

And he kept it up when introducing his incredible “cabin crew”: Colin Elliot, bass; Dean Beresford, drums; John Trier, piano; and “co-pilot” guitarist, Shez Sheridan.

Shez deserves the special nod; they’re both awesome guitarists. In fact, the whole band rocks. They’re tighter than a Cork South Central recount, aptly enough for the morning that’s in it.

Joe Dermody

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