Richard Hawley live @ Cork Opera House 25 Feb 2016

First up tonight was Marry Waterson, A folk singer from Hull in Yorkshire who came onstage alone and opened her set with an unaccompanied version of ‘Hoping To Be Saved’. Before her second number Marry was joined on guitar by David A Jaycock who is her long time collaborator and principle songwriter and by multi-instrumentalist Andy Preston on guitar, keys, banjo and a contraption, which could not be identified from my lofty vantage point.

It was a sleepy start to the evening as Waterson’s gentle folk music is ideally suited for what tonight is an all seated occasion. The stage lighting is a warm mix of browns and blues on a silver backdrop, designed to give the impression of standing in front of a wood. Waterson is a second generation musician and began her career in her mother Lal’s group. Although Marry doesn’t write the songs herself, the style of slow, atmospheric folk music is very similar to that of her mother’s. The audience were called into action to provide harmonic howling for the title track from the current album ‘Two Wolves’ which was the best of set.

Loud cheers ring out as Richard Hawley makes his way to stage, His trademark quiff and thick framed glasses make him instantly recognizable as he emerges from backstage. An opening of ‘Which Way’, ‘Tonight The Street Are Ours’ and ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ provide an exciting start to proceedings and ensuring the now near full crowd is now wide awake. Hawley then introduces himself and says hello while adopting the role of Airline captain, “The duration of tonight’s flight will be approximately 1Hr 40 Min…”

‘I Still Want You’ a gorgeous love song from last year’s ‘Hollow Meadows’ calms things back down, but not for long. Personally I was expecting more of a slower pace to tonight’s gig as ‘Hollow Meadows’ was full of quiet love songs but there seems to be just as many songs from its predecessor in the set-list.  ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’, ‘Down Into The Woods’ (which had an ad-libbed version of ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ thrown in for good measure), ’Time Will Bring You Winter’, ’Don’t Stare Into The Sun’ and title track ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ all getting an outing from what was a far rockier record.

The pilot analogy continues as Hawley interacts with the crowd asking if one member was enjoying her complimentary nuts before trying to convince those of us in the balcony that tonight was the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the area where we were seated, This brought a chorus of laughter from the entire crowd but also had a few people in my vicinity looking  just a little worried.

I am not certain about the structural soundness of the Opera house but the acoustics are always second to none and the lighting tonight is by far the best I have ever seen here.
A collective swoon could be heard as the opening bars of ‘Open Up Your Door’ rang out, Another gorgeous love song where Hawley’s excellent baritone voice is at its best. The Highlight of the night for me was ‘Heart Of Oak’ which was one of my own favourite songs last year. Earlier this evening  warm up act, Marry Waterson had revealed how Hawley had written it about her aunt, Norma Waterson.

After a 3 song encore, ending in ‘The Ocean’ Captain Hawley thanks people for flying with ‘Air Hawley’. This was a thoroughly enjoyable flight and in true airline fashion ran about 5 mins over schedule but I for one was not complaining.

Words by Anthony Kelly