When it was announced that Will Varley was coming to play a show in York I was initially quite surprised by the venue choice. The National Centre For Early Music isn’t one of the more common venues in York, and after attending this show, I now understand why.
It’s a beautiful room with great acoustics, but there are quite a few negatives to point out. Firstly, the bar, or lack of. While reasonably priced, selling warm bottles of beer that are lined up on a trestle table in the foyer is just a very strange experience, and the whole place smells a bit funny. Perhaps it was a drainage problem, or maybe a particularly unclean member of the audience, but the lingering smell of feces around where we were sat didn’t help with first impressions of the venue.
While I usually head down for the start of the gig regardless, the advertising suggested that there would be only one support, so I figured it would be safe to head down a little later. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and we completely missed the opener, Simon Snaize, who hadn’t been advertised. Main support came from Ailbhe Reddy though, and I’m glad we arrived in time to see her play. The Irish singer-songwriter has a beautifully haunting voice and a selection of really well written folk songs which seemed to go down very well with tonight’s audience.
We’ve seen Will Varley a few times over the years, sometimes to next to nobody, sometimes to a packed room. Last time we saw him play The Brudenell in Leeds was a busy, lively show, but this one was quite different. There venue was full, but it was a seated gig with one of the most silent crowds I’ve ever been in. Fortunately, Varley is a well equipped showman with the ability to entertain any kind of crowd, so the silence followed by polite applause didn’t feel too awkward.
Unfortunately we had to leave part way through due to public transport, but what we saw – including Weddings & Wars and The Man Who Fell To Earth – was simply magical. Whether he’s playing upbeat, witty songs or the most delicate folk songs, Will Varley is easily one of the best acoustic performers that this country has to offer right now.