Richard Hawley

It’s not a homecoming, but it sure feels like one…Royal Albert Hall, London (May 20)

For one night only, it’s the Albert Hawley!” proclaims tonight’s star attraction, clearly chuffed to bits to be playing this most salubrious of London venues. The Albert Hall is so aesthetically pleasing and historically iconic that it’s no surprise when Hawley reveals that, when he started his solo career, his ultimate goal was to one day perform on this stage.

And he’s done it his way – after stints in Longpigs and Pulp, he bravely went it alone, inspired by the names he learned from his late dad’s record collection, the stuff he really loved. He followed his heart, and look where it’s taken him. Along the way, he’s built up a following of devotees who felt like he did, people in love with the raw energy of rock’n’roll and the unfettered romanticism of the great balladeers. A few of them waltz in the aisles when Hawley plays his biggest hit, ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’.

Also, just to make things extra special tonight, Hawley has roped in a few famous friends to help out. First up is his old Pulp bandmate and long-time pal Jarvis Cocker, who performs a track called ‘Happy New Year’ that the pair wrote years ago but never got around to releasing (mainly because it’s such a piece of lacerating self-loathing – Cocker talks of being “stoned out of my head once more, going through the motions”). It’s a brilliant song and a brilliant moment, equalled by the arrival of Tony Christie. The veteran croons ‘Danger Is A Woman In Love’, a song that will feature on his forthcoming Hawley-produced album. “I love Tony,” Hawley tells NME later, “I wasn’t sure what he was going to be like ’til he turned up at the studio – then when I first met him he had a cup of tea in one hand and a bag of chips in the other, so I knew we’d be fine after that.”

The real highlight, though, is saved for the encore – Hawley brings on his mum Lyn, who he tells us “hasn’t sung on a stage for 35 years”. Together they touchingly tackle the ancient folk standard ‘Roving Gambler’, a song Lyn used to sing to her boy when he was little. By the end, there isn’t a dry eye in the house. On leaving the stage, Hawley tells the crowd: “Thank you for sharing with me the best night of my life.” And you know he means it.

Alan Woodhouse