LIVE: Richard Dawson, Live from the Barbican

With an unrivalled sense of empathy in a time of crisis, Richard Dawson made a detached livestream set from the belly of the Barbican feel comfortingly intimate.
Posted: 29 October 2020 Words: Wes Foster Photos: Mark Allan

Since the dawn of this new virtual reality, we can get closer to our beloved musicians where it may've not been previously as feasible - in real life, I would never have been able to get down to London for it on a Sunday night, and it seems even less likely I would be able to get tickets to the following Q&A between Richard Dawson and Stewart Lee, which followed Dawson's socially distanced and livestream set at the Barbican.

In a sense, 'sit-down' gigs from the Barbican could almost go hand-in-hand with this livestream, as an added part of the experience. It seems fitting that Dawson takes to the stage sans band, his hair uncharacteristically long and silver which adds to an almost eccentric look. Remarking that it is probably his first spate of time without gigging in roughly twenty-four years, he seems a mixture of overjoyed and nervous for the performance -  without his band, a mixture of folk tracks and those from his album 2020 seem absolutely natural when played in their most basic version with just a guitar. There is something about him solo that seemed almost at ease for the strangeness of these times, and of the livestream. Perhaps it is because it seems strange seeing people, even on TV, close to one another so this lone figure seems fitting.

Beginning to play gigs around age sixteen, Dawson has become a somewhat underground, or at least alternative mainstay of the circuit. His 2017 album, Peasant, brought him much more attention, his fictional Medieval tales serving as allegories for modern life. Between this and 2020, he has found a means of writing with an unrivalled sense of empathy for the people he talks about. This sensitivity is only further amplified as his set leaves behind the synths, and these tumultuous tales take on an even deeper connection, their subject matter ever more recognisable in time of crisis. You'd not think it would be possible to make a livestream intimate, but without even trying, Dawson has done it. Through those slight charming interludes and a cappella renditions of folk songs he brings together a live audience and the livestream as one. 

Usually, at a gig there is that sense of dread of wanting it to end to hold onto that moment of perfection. Here, the comfort that comes from being in your own home means its easy to long for it to never really end. 

Live from the Barbican continues until 13th December. For the remaining events, click here.

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