Putting Richard Hawley, John Grant and Bill Ryder-Jones on the same bill was a unique enough idea. But their night together got seriously special, as they played at three venues around Sheffield on Saturday (October 8). They each played three small clubs, dashing from venue to venue in time to play their next set. There might not have been any trapezes, but there were plenty of hair-raising moments.
While each singer raced to the next venue in a waiting car, the audiences at the 3-Ringed Circus venues had no idea who was going to play first, second or headline. In a rare moment of calm, John Grant, Richard Hawley and Bill Ryder-Jones pose together at one of the Sheffield venues, the Trafalgar Warehouse. Hawley appears confused as to many how shows he had to play on the night.
The 3-Ringed Circus was the brainchild of Richard Hawley and his manager. Hawley had known John Grant since they met when they appeared on [I]Later With Jools Holland[/I] together in October 2015, while Hawley has been a fan of Ryder-Jones’ music from his previous life as the guitarist for The Coral. “I thought the three of us would be a great fit,” said Hawley.
Although Bill Ryder-Jones hadn’t played with Richard Hawley or John Grant before, Hawley and Grant have become pals since meeting a year ago. Hawley guested on Grant’s single ‘Disappointing’ at the bearded wonder’s gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall in June – a show which also featured Kylie Minogue and Cate Le Bon.
Pictured here facing off with his keyboard player Chris Pemberton, John Grant played a six-song show at each venue. Mixing songs from each of his three most recent albums, he performed ‘Sigourney Weaver’ in tribute to the [I]Alien[/I] star before finishing with the heart-stopping ‘Glacier’ from his 2013 album ‘Pale Green Ghosts’.
John Grant headlined at Upper Chapel, a beautiful and ornate chapel in Sheffield, near the Crucible Theatre – best known as the venue where the world snooker championships are held. Grant duets with Robbie Williams on the deluxe edition of Williams’ new album ‘The Heavy Entertainment Show’, and plays another off-kilter gig when he collaborates with Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor and veteran cult singer Scritti Politti at London’s Barbican on October 22.
Bill Ryder-Jones headlined at The Drama Studios, a club usually used by drama students at Sheffield University for their productions. It’s rarely held gigs before, but proved a suitably intimate venue for the 3-Ringed Circus performances.
Richard Hawley was the homecoming king of the first 3-Ringed Circus, the only local Sheffield performer on the bill. Hawley headlined at Trafalgar Warehouse, a 700-capacity converted industrial warehouse built in the 1930s.
Richard Hawley fitted in eight songs into his 40-minute sets at the 3-Ringed Circus venues, opening with ‘As The Dawn Breaks’ from his 2009 album ‘Truelove’s Gutter’ before ending with ‘Heart Of Oak’ from his most recent album, last year’s ‘Hollow Meadows’.
Leading up to 3-Ringed Circus, Richard Hawley had encouraged fans to send in details of journeys they’d made leading up to the show as part of an exhibition at the venues. Hawley’s own included travelling to acoustic shows in York and Edinburgh.
Having come up with the idea for 3-Ringed Circus with his manager Graham Wrench, Richard Hawley proclaimed the event a success, as all three singers just about managed to get between Trafalgar, The Drama Club and Upper Chapel in time. “What a night!”, said Hawley afterwards, while Bill Ryder-Jones tweeted after his Upper Chapel show: “This is a bit intense. Just got Ashcrofted into a waiting car and taken to the next gig.”
The 3-Ringed Circus was part of Sensoria, a festival in Sheffield devoted to film and digital art as well as music. It includes Uncommon People, an interactive family tree of local musicians named after Sheffield heroes Pulp’s hit.
Bill Ryder-Jones fitted the most songs into his 40-minute shows, playing nine songs at each venue. His sets ended with a cover of Super Furry Animals’ 1997 song ‘Arnofio’. As well as tracks from his four solo albums, Ryder-Jones opened his shows with an as-yet-untitled new song. Bold move.