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LIVE: Richard Hawley / Thea Gilmore – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, 11/06/2024

I first heard Richard Hawley in 2001, when hearing his lovely ‘Baby, You’re My Light’ on an Uncut cover-mount CD. Or so I thought; I didn’t realise at the time that due to his time serving in two of his native Sheffield’s most successful bands, Pulp and The Longpigs, that I had probably already seen him play live with both, and probably in the very room where he appears as headliner tonight, Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall (the latter played a storming show here in the ‘90s).

Hawley is now almost a quarter of a century into a stellar solo career, one that has seen him steadily build a following that now sees him comfortably filling the halls and concert centres of the UK and beyond.

Opening up for him tonight is the wonderful Thea Gilmore who has the audience entertained with her charming between-song chat, scoring easy points with the Wolverhampton crowd by mentioning her rendition of ‘We’ve got Neves’, an ode to an adored (now sadly ex!) Wolves player on her last visit a few years back.

Gilmore has a strong, wonderfully pure voice and delivers a set of her songs to a very attentive crowd, ‘Razor Valentine’ from her 2003 album Avalanche being a highlight. There’s a cover of Credence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ – her version apparently appearing in a zombie film that she has never seen – and she ends with a clever two-song piece where she uses effects to create a four-part harmony with herself and loops it around to create an interesting soundscape that serves as the bed of the track. The set seems to be over in a flash, which is credit to Gilmore holding the crowd’s attention with a varied selection.

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Thea Gilmore

Shortly afterwards, (there’s not much tidying / setting up for the roadies after Thea Gilmore’s solo set!), Richard Hawley and his five-piece band enter the stage and tear into ‘She Brings The Sunlight’, from the 2012 record Standing At The Sky’s Edge. After a greeting of “Welcome to Wolverhampton”, Hawley asks how the crowd is to be greeted with the local favourite term “bostin’”, which is good news indeed.

Hawley has a new album out, the brilliantly titled In This City They Call You Love, one of many nods to his home town across his catalogue, (they are often named after Sheffield places / landmarks, but this one references Sheffielders’ tendency to address each other as love, regardless of age or gender!), and will play a number of songs from it tonight, beginning with early outings for the record’s lead single, the slightly menacing groove of ‘Two For His Heels’ and the sweet follow-up ‘Prism In Jeans’ , an example of Hawley’s more playful side.

Through the set, there’s a great balance of the more gentle elements of Hawley’s catalogue. For instance, the swoonsome ‘Open Up Your Door’ and a little later, the even more swoonsome Coles Corner title track, with the perhaps surprisingly loud guitar work on songs like ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’, which was a real departure in sound at the time (it was released as a single in 2012). Having two guitarists alongside a bassist, drummer and keyboard player allows the songs to be given a real shot of power when it’s needed.

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Richard Hawley

A comment on the upcoming election receives the biggest cheer heard in Wolverhampton since Mario Lemina’s stoppage time winner against Tottenham a few months back, (sorry, I’ll stop with the Wolves’ references now!), and the following ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ has a real celebratory feel as a result – it’s perhaps Hawley’s most well-known track, and it is rendered perfectly and euphorically.

He’s in great spirits throughout, referencing the recent Top 5 chart appearance of the new album, which he finds “hilarious”: “Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, two K-Pop bands and then a 57 year old father of three pisshead gobshite from Sheffield. Wonders will never cease!” He is also thankful to the crowd for being so appreciative of the new material – there are six songs from the new record, but they are certainly among his strongest.

Hollow Meadows’ only track tonight, ‘Heart Of Oak’ ends the main set with an extended section at the end after the farewells have been said, but there are another three songs to come in the encore: an acoustic ‘People’ (“The quietest song I have ever written” announces Hawley) before the fastest song of the evening and probably of Hawley’s catalogue, Lady’s Bridge’s ‘I’m Looking For Someone To Find Me’ and a devastating finale of the incredible ‘The Ocean’, the perfect goodbye for a very well-curated set.

Photos of Richard Hawley: Andy Page

Photo of Thea Gilmore: Stuart Pittaway

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.