Wearing a cap and short trousers, Richard Dawson waved to his audience. He looked more like a jolly children’s TV presenter than someone who was about to open his lungs and heart and bellow a song about a scared, tired soldier. There wasn’t a dry beard in the house.
In contrast, the gig was peppered with weird jokes, sentences that ended where you didn’t expect them to, and an amusing story about a sat nav which he had renamed a ‘tombola’. In between songs, he rather fancied himself not just as a comedian, but as the comedian Stuart Lee.
Had he not forgotten his phone, he would have read out some of his critic’s biting words in a deadpan way that would have been hilarious. Instead, still like Stuart Lee, he explained to us what would have happened in that section.
The critic’s words cannot have been that biting though, as he has had critical acclaim for albums such as ‘Nothing Important’ and the most recent ‘Peasant’. Richard has the capacity to draw you into the stories which, like his monologues between songs, do not always end where you expect them to.
It takes a great leap of imagination to sing a stranger’s story as if it were your own and Richard Dawson has that in spades. “Last gig it was a shepherd’s crook but tonight it is forceps” he said pointing to the mic stand. “Look out for the forceps”. Nothing happened with the forceps.
Before the days of mic stands and other technology, he sang about a poor man who reaped the fields by hand. Barely able to feed his family, the man was given 40 acres by a benevolent stranger for telling him how good to his wife he was, (his own wife!). What compensation would be owed a modern day Gillette salesman in a room so full of facial hair?
The music I can only describe as ‘experimental macho-folk’ and was what bearded men turned to in order to express their emotions. Swigging from a bottle of virgin olive oil to try to preserve his voice not only demonstrated how macho he was, but also how damned loud he was. He was loud, his band was loud. It was loud.
The gig ended with whirring, cacophonous electric guitar and bass. I wondered how differently the set would have turned out if the bass player, Tony Hedley, had not accidentally stamped all over the acoustic guitar at the beginning of the tour. A testament to the infinite, baffling ball of creativity that is Richard Dawson.