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'They don't make venues like that any more': Richard Hawley plays Durham Cathedral with NASUWT Riverside Band

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 16/07/2022 Peter Tennick

There are gigs that often stick in the mind for the venue they are staged, but this show at Durham Cathedral stands out and makes you realise they don't build venues like this any more.

The Sheffield-born singer songwriter, who started his career in the 1990s in the Longpigs and went on to join Pulp before going solo, left the 900-strong audience in awe in the unique venue as he filled every space of the near 900 year old structure with sounds of his gentle acoustic tinkerings to the booming blasts of his electric guitar backed beautifully by the NASUWT Riverside Band.

The show was the Saturday night headline slot in Durham County Council's Durham Brass festival, which staged shows across the county between Sunday, July 10 and Sunday, July 17.

And it was the perfect highlight.

The night was opened with a half-hour set from progressive folk singer-songwriter and guitarist Katie Spencer who perfectly highlighted the delights of the cathedral's acoustics.

Promotional picture of Richard Hawley ahead of his performance at BRASS festival. Credit Chris Saunderslores © PR Promotional picture of Richard Hawley ahead of his performance at BRASS festival. Credit Chris Saunderslores

But when Richard Hawley came on and opened with As the Dawn Breaks, My Little Treasure and lifted the tempo with Don't Stare at the Sun, it was clear this was going to be a special night.

I have been a fan of Hawley for a good few years so I am a little biased, but there were points when the resonating sounds echoing around one of the country's most beautiful architectural creations made you feel there couldn't be a better place to be in the world at that moment in time.

One of the definite high-points came around half way through the set when Hawley played Soldier On. The song started with its minimal production that drew you in with slide guitar and Hawley's gravelly crooner tones - but when the brass band fired in it lifted the roof. It was so much so that it must've awakened the bats in the gothic structure as a pipistrelle flew overhead dancing rhythmically to the sonic sensations, you certainly don't get that are your usual music venue.

Hawley played around 15 of his self-penned creations reinterpreted with the backing of the traditional Durham colliery band perfectly, despite only rehearsing for the first time together the day before, which he said between songs as he admitted to feeling the nerves of the special gig two years in the making.

Hawley seemed to appreciate the intimacy of the show and often opened up with personal references and details on his inspiration and back-stories behind his songwriting.

In one of his forays into his own life as he opened up to the crowd between songs, he told how his dad spent part of his childhood in Bishop Auckland and was even 'buried wearing a Bishop Auckland football top'.

As he built up the mood in preparation for his next storming display, Hawley told how he is the son of a steel-worker with family who worked in the mines, mirroring many at the heart of County Durham's industrial heritage, and slammed the 'shower leading the country' as he mused he hoped his next song Tonight The Streets Are Ours will one day come true, come the revolution eh.

The show included a mix of slow and quiet ballads like For Your Lover Give Some Time, which had the most beautiful solo that perfectly displayed the ringing resonance of the cathedral, and What Love Means to the blasting final tune of Standing at the Sky's Edge.

There is no question about Hawley's respected songwriting heritage, with collaborations including performing alongside the Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Elbow, Shakespears Sister, Duane Eddy and Paul Weller, and recently being support act for Weller shows this year.

But this show was truly special to have such a great musical creator and performer is such a special venue. In the pre-show publicity Hawley said himself "I think it’s going to be one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever played”, well it will be one I'll always remember too, thank you for the memories.

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