The Brudenell Social Club is one of the UK’s best venues – it’s a great room with great sound and a cheap bar, so when it was announced that one of the UK’s best up and coming singer-songwriters would be performing there on the 1st February, there was no chance that I’d be missing it. It seems odd calling Will Varley ‘up and coming’ because he’s been on the scene for quite some time, but it seems that all of the graft has really deservedly started to pay off over the last 12 months.
We arrived at the venue ten minutes or so after the show had started, assuming that the doors opened at 7:30 rather than 7, so unfortunately for us Sean McGowan was already halfway through his set. The room was a little over half full and the most apparent thing as I walked in was how quiet the audience were. Clearly it was the real music lovers that had arrived early as the room was completely silent as Sean played some quiet, folkier numbers. I actually felt awkward going to the bar and asking for a drink as I didn’t want to break the silence. For an opening act to have such an attentive audience, you’ve got to be doing something right. Before his closing song we were told a story about Sean’s grandmother and how much of an inspiration she was, which was a great way to round off a great set worthy of much more than an opening slot.
Next up were blues-rock duo Ida Mae. They had some really sweet vocal harmonies and the guitarist is an incredibly talented musician, but style wise they just weren’t my thing at all. They seemed to go down well with the crowd though, so despite not enjoying them there’s absolutely no reason for me to criticise them.
As I’ve already said, Will Varley is one of the most promising singer-songwriters that the UK has to offer right now, so it’s no surprise that the room was pretty much full by the time he took to the stage. His set was a mix of songs on his own and songs with his backing band which added an extra dynamic to the set.
‘Weddings and Wars’ was an early highlight, and ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ sounded absolutely beautiful. Songs from the new album fit right into the set seamlessly, all tied together with Will Varley’s infectious charm and wit.
There was a really mixed audience at this show, and the silent audience who politely observed Sean McGowan earlier quickly became outnumbered by a more boisterous contingent later on, which became more apparent during ‘I Got This Email’ as groups of lads had their arms around eachother, pints in the air, singing along at the top of their voices. A few of these little groups that were scattered around the venue seemed a little more disinterested in the folkier numbers, much to the annoyance of the fans of that side of things, so there was a lot of ‘Shhhing’ going on. (Which actually cut through the crowd much louder than the chatting, but that’s beside the point.)
As the night drew to a close, an encore of ‘King For A King’ and ‘Seize The Night’ was a perfect ending. Both songs well known and catchy enough for all areas of the crowd to come together for a good singalong. I remember the days of seeing Will Varley in very small, half empty rooms, so for me this felt like seeing him play to a big crowd. If this performance is anything to go by, his rise to the top doesn’t look like slowing anytime soon, so for a lot of people, this will be one of those shows to look back on as one of the smaller ones back in the day.