Despite an epic rock career that began in the Britpop era, Richard Hawley revealed that although he had appeared here with Pulp, Arctic Monkeys and Paul Weller, he had never before played Brixton Academy as a headline act. To mark this transition from bridesmaid to bride he threw a bouquet into the audience.
The Sheffield guitarist is on an upward trajectory once again, Mercury-nominated for the second time for his seventh album, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, and finding new ways to play with a sound that was becoming overly familiar.
Now his echoing croon is frequently buried beneath a wall of guitar squall, an effort perhaps to knock flat his sworn enemies, those talking at the back.
If he griped and swore at some sections of his audience it was with gruff good humour. He’s known as one of music’s good guys, and demonstrated why by taking time to lead applause for his support act, Lisa Hannigan, before he had played his first song.
The set list, however, was drawn largely from what he has called his “angry record”. The psychedelic drama of Time will Bring You Winter was followed swiftly by Down in the Woods, a bruising riff with a dense breakdown that culminated in a creepy rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
Between songs he showed a great aptitude for stand-up comedy. All of his stories seemed to involve him being drunk, apart from his introduction to the pretty new song Don’t Stare at the Sun, which was about flying a kite while on LSD.
He got through just 15 songs in almost two hours, thanks to all the chat and a songwriting style that is never rushed. Soldier On was so glacial it was almost going backwards. Songs such as Open Up Your Door and the stunning finale, The Ocean, unfolded at leisure. The length and loudness of some new tracks felt a bit of a chore — anger doesn’t necessarily suit him — but ever so slowly, Hawley is moving on.