After successful opening stints for Frank Turner and The Proclaimers last year, it’s safe to say Will Varley’s audiences have increased sizeably. This month he’s headed out on his biggest headline tour to date, bringing his emotional rollercoaster of a set to venues up and down the country.
Opening up are local acoustic duo Katie And I . It’s clear from their set that they’re a very new band, from checking setlists on their phones to not being quite sure on song names and Lewis Veakins’ guitar playing having more than a few slip-ups throughout. But the likes of Skin and the beautiful Wolves have potential that just could make them the next big thing, and the way singer Katie Overbury soldiers on despite a sore throat is nothing short of admirable. Watch this space for sure.
There’s more of a standstill with Molly’s Lips  who follow. Although Will Varley’s close friends are talented for sure, their set just sounds like one twenty-minute song for the majority. There’s hardly any contrast between Kevlar Liver and 501s in this live setting, and the buzz of conversation quickly begins to build after the crowd realise this. There are a few instances of amusing repartee with the crowd, especially when trying to flog their record (“buying our record’s like having a KitKat Chunky here and a peanut KitKat Chunky at home”), but ultimately it’s a bit bland for the most part.
But while the supports have been a trickle of water for the thirsty crowd, Will Varley  is a full-on waterfall. Straight from raucous opener As For My Soul, the banter is flowing effortlessly. Will addresses the jolly (albeit drunk) crowd, a few of whom are heckling right from the get-go. And while this continues throughout the set, there’s no disdain in Will’s replies. In fact, he encourages it and seems to feed off it the whole way through. For the duration of the set, it just seems like Will is part of the crowd and the occasion is a couple of hundred mates having a laugh over a few beers. Despite this, Will keeps everyone in the room wrapped around his little finger for the full hour and a half, with every single person screaming either “CAT!” or “MONKEY!” at one point when asked to choose between songs. Talking Cat Blues triumphs over Monkey On A Rock, and although there’s obvious disappointment from the “MONKEY!” half of the crowd, they soon perk up to sing every word along with the “CAT!” half.
Solidarity is definitely a good word to sum up tonight. Will bares his soul tonight with flawless delivery, playing songs that lie in every possible place on the emotional spectrum. During a haunting rendition of The Man Who Fell To Earth, the crowd are pin-drop silent and reflective of the song’s message, made even more striking by Will’s soaring vocal. They all shout back the lyrics of The Self-Checkout Shuffle chortling with huge goofy grins on their faces. And the range of people here – old, young, drunk, sober – are all united by the all too relatable lyrics of King For A King and We Don’t Believe You. And after a euphoric two hundred-strong gang chant of fan favourite I Got This Email, there is absolutely no one leaving the Buyers Club without a smile on their face. Feeling sad? Go see Will Varley – he’s a human antidepressant.
Words by Georgia Jackson