By Jack Lowe
Richard Dawson took to the stage at the CCA and wowed his audience with a set of songs from his most recent album.
The Geordie singer-songwriter, backed only by a bass player and a drummer and armed with a guitar and cup of chamomile tea, played out the post-Brexit stories and anxieties that run through 2020, his critically acclaimed LP released last month.
His songs are filled with ordinary characters pushed to the brink by our extraordinary circumstances. Be that the titular ‘Civil Servant’ who hates their job and colleagues with a passion, the anxiety ridden narrator of ‘Jogging’ (for my money the best song released by anybody this year), the pub owners who are the victims of flooding on ‘The Queens Head’ or the young footballer afraid of letting down his team, and his father, on the unbelievable catchy ‘Two Halves.’
In between songs there was time for him to let the audience know about his love of video games, and the visceral emotion he felt upon the death of his virtual horse in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Dawson also poked fun at his own diminutive stature, asking that the audience allow any shorter concert goers easy access to the front.
On a couple of songs Dawson eschewed the instrumentation and delivered stunning acapella renditions, his unique voice coming to the fore.
The aforementioned Jogging was warmly received by the crowd. The pounding instrumentation mirroring the title, and the lyrics again reflecting a very real feeling of anxiety amongst many people, and one that Dawson himself admitted to suffering from.
The music is political, but not in the way we might be used to. The songs are not crying for revolution or raging against the machine. They are vivid, detailed and well realised portraits of the effect the world has on us all. The way that environmental change can strip us of our possessions or lead to xenophobia in a community. The way language has changed so that a heart emoji can tell the narrator of a song everything he doesn’t want to know. The crushing reality of existing in a job that drains you of joy.
Dawson may be one of the most underrated musicians in the country right now, and his ability to empathise with the people in his songs shone through on stage.
This was an accomplished and moving set from an artist at the top of his game.