Maintaining himself as one of the best to do it, it being live performance, Richard Hawley taking to the stage is always a pleasure. It is why his dedicated base of fans are keen to see where his next YouTube livestream takes him. Two in the last two weeks is quite a surprise. But Now Then and its release brings about a needs must mentality. A tour next year does not scratch the immediate itch. Between The Grapes and this appearance at the Baloise Session 2023, fans of the Sheffield legend will be hopeful of hearing deep album cuts, new tracks and covers from the man who immortalised two decades’ worth of work in a must-have compilation record. Accompanied as ever by his faithful troupe of musicians, Hawley and company are in expectedly fine form for this appearance.
Those seeing Hawley live again and again may be crying out for some variations to the setlist, but good songs sound the same in different places. Off My Mind is still a clinical opener – swift work from the Longpigs and Pulp alumni, with constant collaborator Shez Sheridan nicely thrown into frame providing backing vocals and slick guitar riffs. Standing at the Sky’s Edge still sounds monumental when performed live – a far stretch greater than its album alternative. Hawley, the more and more he is listened to, is clearly a man of the stage. It makes sense, the fluid rhythm which comes from seemingly off-the-cuff guitar hooks and denser moments found within. Clive Mellor stuns once more on harmonica, an essential part of the Hawley troupe.
Classics of course feature – and for anyone to have seen Hawley live over the last few years, this set will hold no surprises. No changes to the order, but inclusions of great tracks, as mentioned, are always going to be placed where they feel suitable. Playing the same order over and over may grow tiresome for those so in-tune with the works, but there is an endless love for the likes of Coles Corner and Tonight the Streets Are Ours which is further cemented by the slight changes they receive on this show. Don’t Stare at the Sun is still a miracle of an instrumental. These are factors which, regardless of show, do not change.
There is a formality and consistency to Hawley which, at this stage in his career, will not change. His level as a performer is of the highest order. These bits and pieces streamed straight to YouTube are a nice buildup for his live tour next summer. Hold out hope of new material, of changes to the set, but remember how great it has been. These are chances for tired eyes to reflect or break from Hawley, whose Baloise Session 2023 is more or less the same structure and standards as he played way back when at The Fire Station and The Leadmill. Guided now by the sense of urgency found in his compilation Now Then, there is a reflective tone and flourish to these tracks – a style far from permanent as a new album springs into action next year. What changes they bring are yet to be seen, but for some, it cannot come quick enough.