Richard Dawson @ CCA, Glasgow, 27 Nov
Disarming, comforting and as unorthodox as you'd hope for; Richard Dawson is on fine form performing cuts from his latest record, 2020
Richard Dawson waves enthusiastically to a few pals in the audience before approaching the microphone. “It’ll be a slow start,” he cautions. “Whenever it does seem like we’ll be generating any momentum, I’ll be doing my best to trip that up.”
Dawson – ably accompanied by Andrew Cheetham (drums) and fellow Geordie John-Michael Hedley of Pigs x7 (bass) – disrupts “the whole idea of a rock show” with barely contained glee throughout the evening. Dawson’s guitar playing is compellingly raw, unorthodox and inventive throughout a set that leans heavily on his latest release, 2020. “If you’re sort of sitting on the fence, whether the album is for you or not, this is the track that’ll convince you it’s definitely not,” he says, introducing Heart Emoji.
“I love this new language of emojis,” he enthuses. “For instance, I discovered that I had two twin brothers two weeks ago, and instead of going to meet them or sending a letter, I just texted a turd with eyes.”
2020 brutally and intimately captures the pain of those suffering during these times of uncertainty and austerity (‘Come hell or high water / How little we are’), though it's also Dawson’s most accessible record to date, largely due to the heart and humour his audiences have come to treasure.
After a stirring rendition of Soldier, from 2017’s Peasant, Dawson offers a sold out CCA crowd “lots of love and the best of luck”, before shaking hands with those in the front row and exiting stage right. Perhaps the last line of the song – ‘My heart is full of hope’ – would have lingered in the minds of some of those in attendance afterwards, offering comfort and courage. Dawson’s work, however, was not yet complete.
His encore concludes, to widespread delight, with an explanation for why he became emotional onstage in Edinburgh the previous night. “People were like, 'that’s wonderful, he’s emotional while singing a song',” he begins. “The line about the horse really awoke something in me, but I had to confess at the end that it was a memory from Red Dead Redemption 2.”
Dawson goes on to pay tribute to the “beautiful white horse with black patches” who was his beloved companion throughout the game, until tragedy struck. The horse (“I called her Bridget Riley”) was mortally wounded after a “nasty tumble down a hill.” A distraught Dawson was later consoled by his partner Sally, who presented him with a framed picture of the horse. After his story wraps up, Dawson cackles: “Isn’t this the best end to a gig ever?”