RICHARD HAWLEY / THEA GILMORE @ THE WULFRUN AT THE HALLS, WOLVERHAMPTON, TUESDAY 11TH JUNE 2024

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One of Sheffield`s greatest living ambassador`s, singer, songwriter, musician, and storyteller Richard Hawley reached Wolverhampton on date ten of a sixteen date trek around the UK and Ireland in support of the release of his tenth and latest album `In This City They Call You Love`. The title coming from an endearing phrase from his hometown that almost everybody greets you with from Bus drivers to shop assistants.

Opening tonight is Thea Gilmore, an indie, folk tinged singer songwriter, who has released more than twenty albums since her debut `Burning Dorothy` in 1998. I was delighted to finally get to see this singer as every time I planned to catch her something cropped up. Thea did not disappoint with a thirty-minute set that opened with `Friendly Little Heart Attack` a song about abuse before heading into `Razor Valentine` which she referred to as a “fucked up love song.” A folk like cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival`s `Bad Moon Rising` has this mesmerised audience singing along before sharing an uplifting number with `Rise`. This, all too brief set closed with a fusion of part song, part spoken word poem with `This Girl Is Taking Bets / Nice Normal Woman` which I have to say was utterly compelling. Numerous support acts waste their opportunity to impress but I have to say TG departed with a nigh on standing ovation and i`m sure they`ll be countless amongst this crowd tonight that will be keeping an eye out to catch future headline dates.

I`d seen the Longpigs many, many years ago and Richard and his then band when they backed Duanne Eddy, the Titan of Twang at a show at the Warwick Arts Centre twelve years ago but tonight was my R H debut experience. There`s no big fanfare as Mr Hawley and his five comrades arrived on stage and ease us in with the utterly spellbinding psychedelic `She Brings the Sunlight`.

There`s a couple of numbers from the latest release with `Two for his Heels` which has a delightfully retro vibe and is about a deal that goes wrong and `Prism in Jeans` which for some reason reminded me of The Everly Brothers. `Open Up Your Door` is a reflective ballad love song while `Standing at the Skys Edge` could have been lifted from a Peaky Blinders soundtrack.

The pattern of this evening`s performance was a new track intermingled with tracks that had this nearly sold-out venue in raptures. The highlight`s for me were the questioning `Deep Space` with its crashing guitar riffs, the evocative `Just Like the Rain` one of the singer’s oldest songs written on his sixteenth birthday, the cinematic `Tonight The Streets are Ours` and the aching `Alone` which brought to mind Stephen Patrick and his crew.

The set closed out with the introspective `Coles Corner` where the singer held up a “Welcome to Sheffield” sign, `Heavy Rain` a lament for absent friends and the wonderfully expansive `Heart of Oak`. After a little encouragement, these marvellous musicians who included Johnny Trier, Colin Elliot, Dean Beresford, Brian Day, and long-time associate Mark Sheridan return and share a three-song encore which included the reflective `People` the quietest song the artist has written about what Mr Hawley refers to as Sheffield’s “proud industrial past and the enduring determination of its citizens.”  The singer teased the audience as to what they would like him to play for the final number before ignoring the numerous pleas and offering the contemplative and almost brooding `The Ocean`.

This was a well thought out and executed set that gave us each a little of what we longed for. I`ve seen around fifty gigs so far this year and this was right at the top with its musicianship, appealing song range and sense of inclusivity. There`s only a dozen dates left to catch this show, so buy, beg, borrow, or steal a ticket as you won`t want to miss this tour.

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