Wednesday, December 12, 2007

These Lights In Our Hearts They Tell No Lies

concert review: Richard Hawley, Ferraby Lionheart @ Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto, Ontario), December 5, 2007

Richard Hawley @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon

As part of the Horseshoe Tavern's 60th Anniversary celebrations, Mercury Music Prize-nominee Richard Hawley with opener Ferraby Lionheart came to the venue on December 5 last week. Sold out, if not at least close to capacity by the time Mr. Hawley hit the stage, the Tolkien-esque-named Ferraby Lionheart from Los Angeles and his band opened the show with a pleasant set of introspective if not sometimes sunny folk-pop tunes. For my first listen, there was a hint of promise - a few sparkling melodies here and there and the spare band instrumentation compliments the melodies nicely. If the audience was only politely receptive to Ferraby's set, it was only probably because we were impatient for Mr. Hawley to come on.

Pulp references aside(I was never a big Pulp fan and didn't even know Mr. Hawley was in the band at one time), I really first knew Richard Hawley through his association with A Girl Called Eddy who Mr. Hawley had produced her debut album from a few years back, a striking, emotional album of Bacharach-esque melancholic pop songs. I've only recently caught onto Mr. Hawley's output, initially through his MySpace and more recently with his most recent album "Lady's Bridge" which I picked up based upon the recommendations of many bloggers and critics. Starkingly romantic at times but also able to cut loose a little with a little twang and rockabilly, Mr. Hawley's an enigma in the pop scene, at least in terms of mainstream exposure. Richard and his band, a mostly bespectacled bunch decked out in black suit jackets, white shirts and dark jeans, with Richard sporting a greasy, tousled, pompadoured hair style, took the stage to a warm reception from the near-capacity audience. After a few salutations from RIchard, he cheekily got things going by saying "Let's Ballad" to the amusement of at least some of us who picked up on that quick quip. Romantic set-opener, "Valentine" got things underway nicely. In the preceding banter to next song "Roll River Roll", Richard said that the song was written about the Great Sheffield[his hometown] Flood of 1864 and that in an ironic twist several months after he wrote the tune, Sheffield experienced a flood. His most familiar tune to me so far, "Tonight The Streets Are Ours" was greeted with glee from me and even with the canned strings played through a synth, it still sounded glorious. I can only imagine how great a live string section would sound. As an aside, "...Streets..." sounded a lot like Scotland's Edwyn Collins, making me want to revisit some of his works. The venue-appropriate, pop-abilly romp of "Serious"(with Richard asking the audience if we wanted to hear some rockabilly) got a few in the crowd cutting a rug on the spot where they stood. Overall, it was one of my favourite shows of the year and a worthy addition to the Horseshoe Tavern's illustrious history. Just hope it doesn't take Mr. Hawley twelve years(the length of time he'd said he'd last been in Toronto) to come back.

Here are my photos from the show.

More reviews of the show over at chromewaves, It's Not The Band I Hate..., Eye Weekly,

MySpace: Richard Hawley
MySpace: Ferraby Lionheart

On a related note:

- there's a FLAC download(over at nyctaper) of Mr. Hawley's performance at Bowery Ballroom on December 1, 2007.
- Richard gives a heads up that you can now download his recent London Apple store session from iTunes.

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