The first thing to strike me about Will when I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago was what a genuine, sterling guy he sounded. I imagined him as a chap you would see drinking Ale down the pub and cracking jokes with the bar staff. Waiting for his set at Bodega, I was eager to find out whether seeing him live would uphold this perception.
Standing on stage, Will’s long hair, white shirt and black waist jacket combo made him look rather more like a pirate turned poet troubadour. Musing on how he often ruins the start of shows by talking too much, I felt the Will Varley on stage was definitely the humble, funny guy I listened to on the phone. Interjecting his first song These Are The Days with comments like ‘Who the f*** is Leona Lewis? I need to get some new material’, was a perfect way to break the ice between performer and sold out crowd.
Up on stage Will had only his guitar for company. In an intimate venue it is often hard to hush the bubble of chatter but Will did exactly that by playing songs Send My Love To The System and The Man Who Fell To Earth. Introducing the latter as a story about José Matada, an Angolan man who fell from a British Airways jet in search of a new life, I was hit by his poignant lyricism. With a refugee crisis happening on our borders, it was hard not to feel a connection.
With souring popularity since his last appearance in Notts supporting Frank Turner at Rock City, Will joked he thought his mum had bought all the tickets to the gig. It’s clear to see how grateful he is for the support and to people like Frank for exposing him to wider audiences. Switching from sombre to silliness, Will played much loved, quirky number The Self Checkout Shuffle – a song about surprise packages in more than one baggage area.
Stopping the set to pass change along the crowd in order to buy a beer, Will’s humour rings out in his song writing and personality. Yet what makes him different is his ability to weave acute social commentary into folk melodies. 8 Bit History Of The World chimed with plaintive messages about our thwarted time here on Earth but got the crowd singing with its catchy melody.
“The west gets rich and it strangles the earth, Romeo and Juliet can’t make it work, Factories, A-Bombs and Flying-Machines, Finally someone invents the tv”
Watching Will play Advert Soundtrack and We Don’t Believe You, I could imagine him as a voice for a generation that won’t accept modern day bullsh*t. When asked whether he wanted to raise people’s awareness of political or social issues he replied: ‘no, I’m just responding to whatever is going on in my life’. Yet hearing everyone chant his lyrics, ‘we’re not a generation, we’re just a target market’, it’s hard not to see him as a figurehead for some alternative crowd.
“And if we’re after Britain first then we should probably be last, Before UK independence we should give back what isn’t ours”
Finishing this maelstrom of music with I Got This Email – a satire on David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s political ineptness- everyone in the crowd was chuckling. Listening to Will you get a sense of what a craftsman he is however seeing him live adds another dimension. Quirky facial expressions, zany pauses between songs and funny rants culminate in a brilliant show. Off next to tour America with artists Skinny Lister and Beans and Toast, Will seems set on a skyward trajectory. I’m sure he will return to Nottingham though – next time headlining a bigger stage.
To find out more on Will Varley, click here.