Gig review: Richard Dawson at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

If Richard Dawson ever decides he’s had enough of writing incredible lyrics to haunting songs accompanied by ruthless guitar playing, he would be just as mesmerising as a comedian.

Richard Dawson
Richard Dawson

The Geordie has built up such a following that his Leeds gig was sold-out and a packed venue was treated to a set plucked from old and new offerings, interspersed with his characteristically rambling yet spot on witty and wry observations.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Last album, Peasant, was a concept album set in medieval North Britain but having since penned 2020, he told his audience that it was now a metaphor for life in the modern day – with 2020 being a loose metaphor for pre-medieval life. In the fast and furious “Jogging”, he sings: “There’s a Kurdish family on the ground floor, had a brick put through their kitchen window. The police know who did this, still they do nothing” then paused for a long while before plaintively singing the line “It’s lonely up here in Middle-England”.

His genius in his lyricism, often darkly heartbreaking yet extremely funny at other times. The pain is relentless - from the devastation of flooding (“How little we are, clung to the river’s edge, come hell or high water, how little we are”), to homelessness, working in a fulfilment centre or the Civil Service. But the comedy is there too, with a squashed slug in Heart Emoji stopping a possible encounter with a carving knife.

Given that thanks to the appalling ‘service’ put on by Northern Rail, I arrived half an hour late at the gig and missed his first few songs, our local train service would be a good subject for his next despairing anthem. There was to be no The Vile Stuff, and Richard apologised for having to end his set as there was a curfew in place for some club event at the venue. But he had time to shake the hands of fans who stretched from the depths of the stage and seemed overwhelmingly grateful and humbled for our appreciation, with every ounce of it deserving.