Sunday night in November is not usually the liveliest of times, so when the opportunity arose to check out Cornwall's Wille And The Bandits, I jumped at it. Their new album 'Grow' is in my increasing backlog of music to review, and over the past few weeks has definitely 'grown' on me, so much so that it's now a firm favourite here at Foley Towers.
The New Continental is a lovely airy pub set in well tended grounds, right on the banks of The Ribble, and has an extensive selection of cask and bottled beers, plus a tempting menu. I'll be coming here again! A the back is a dedicated performance room, laid out with chairs and tables, giving an intimate feel to the gig.
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The support act were local band Mobius Loop, a group of multi-instrumentalists, who performed a set of socially aware acoustic songs. Various instruments were deployed throughout their set, most notably accordian, trombone, cello, violin and viola. Heads up to the bass player for lugging a full size double bass to the gig!
Their discordant folk based music was not the most accessible, but was certainly challenging and lyrically intense. I found their songs to be too similar sounding, which made the performance drag a little. The diverse range of instrumentation gave some colour to the songs, and the quality of musicianship was high, and this, coupled with some hilarious audience interaction, helped to raise the entertainment level. With a little work on the songs, Mobius Loop could be excellent, and they are definitely a band to watch.
After a short break, Wille And The Bandits took to the stage, and proceeded to blow the roof off the place. End of review...
That's rather a brief description of their set, although it sums it up perfectly. Armed with just a few guitars, an FX board, and an impressive top-hat a seated Wille Edwards on guitar, bassist Matt Brookes and drummer Andrew Naumann played a set of songs that mixed energy, soul and sheer skill, with moments of gentle sensitivity.
Wille is a superb player, equally adept at rock pyrotechnics as he is at subtle acoustic work, whilst the other musicians are fantastic players too. Matt switched between six string electric bass and body-less stand up bass, and drummer Andrew regularly pulled out his bongoes, adding an exotic touch to his percussion work.
What did surprise me, after listening to 'Grow' was that Wille did not use an electric guitar in concert. The startling sounds he produces are all from an acoustic, plus a couple of lap guitars, running through his FX board. Wille is not just a superb guitarist, he's also a powerful singer, possessing as he does a voice packed with emotion.
The Bandits set mixed their own impressive blues tinged songs, with a couple of surprising cover tunes. The band originals mix folk, rock, blues, and occasionally reggae to create a sound that is all their own. This was one of those rare gigs where one does not find ones attention wandering during the 'boring bits', simply because there weren't any!
My attention was held throughout the whole set, by both the music, and the charisma of Wille himself. The between song banter between the band and audience was witty and charming, and some technical problems with Andrews stand-up bass were dealt with in good humour.
The whole set was packed with great tunes, many from the new album, and rather than simply list each song, here's a few of the many highlights of a magnificent performance.
'Gypsy Woman': The room rocked to this powerful blues number, a recent single featuring some brilliant slide playing, and an infectious chorus refrain.
'Son Of The Gun': Another guitar dominated hard blues song, performed with passion.
'Black Magic Woman': This cover of The Fleetwood Mac classic mixed elements of the original, plus the famous Santana version, along with The Bandits' own style, to give the lucky audience a rendition filled with soul and groove.
'Angel': What can I say? This instrumental is impressive on record, but live it becomes something else! Mixing latinesque rythmns, with a hypnotic bass line, topped by snaking, soaring guitar playing, this song has a hypnotic power that had the whole crowd entranced. Wille played like a man possessed, each note saying something beautiful yet primal. A truly magnificent closer to the main set.
'Money For Nothing': Yes, the Dire Straits tune, wheeled out as the encore. The original is a rather plodding piece of soft rock, dragged further down by the presence of Sting on guset vocals. In the hands of Wille and The Bandits, the song is transformed into a blistering heavy rock-blues workout, sung and played in a way that made the song their own. Fantastic!
This was one hell of a gig! If you like bands such as The Graveltones, and Thje Temperance Movement, or simply love exciting, intelligent, powerful rock music, then you must check out Wille and The Bandits. You will come out grinning, I can promise you that!