“Just so you know, you will never find an album of mine on Spotify,” Will Varley  preaches to the near-full Gorilla. You’ll never find a song of his on an advert too, and it’s something he’s clearly passionate about, having paused halfway through Advert Soundtracks to rant about bands selling their music to businesses they don’t believe in just to get by. It’s one of the many instances tonight where he’s gotten cheers and rapturous applause between songs. Because getting a ticket to a Will Varley show means that his opinions go hand in hand with the music. Chances are you already know this if you’re an existing fan, but tonight it’s easy to spot who in the crowd votes Tory (hint: it’s those raising their eyebrows or crossing their arms at one of his many quips about the government).
There’s a beautiful marriage between spoken opinions and the musical offerings here, and it’s one that Varley has all but mastered due to his seemingly endless touring schedule. The live debut of We Want Our Planet Back is all too fitting with the all-too-fresh election of Donald Trump in the US, and the stories behind The Man Who Fell To Earth and main set closer When She Wakes Up (both told to the crowd by Will prior to playing them) are all the more heartbreaking in a live setting with a stunned-into-silence watching. Everything else seems to stop while Will is singing such songs, and it’s hard not to be moved by the way the stories are told, especially by such a unique and captivating vocal.
But while new album Kingsdown Sundown marks the start of a more serious era for Varley in a recorded sense, it’s still the more fun songs in his arsenal that people seem to enjoy live the most. The noiseless focus that meets the serious material here is something to be marvelled at, especially when contrasted with the rowdiness and laughter of those same people the minute the first notes of Talking Cat Blues and I Got This Email ring out. The tales within the songs are wordy, but most people here shout every syllable back, raising their pints in the air and fuelled by pure glee.
Varley acts as a brilliant ringleader, raising his eyebrows and throwing his dry sense of humour into his delivery at just the right moments, and chortling as he plays excerpts of the first song he ever wrote, singing in an uncanny Tom DeLonge voice. It’s this wittiness and relatability that makes everything about his live show work. People simply lap up everything he says, and are as chameleon-like as he is, switching between solemn and smiley at the strum of a chord. Such control of an audience by someone so under the radar is absolutely no mean feat, and recognition for doing so is absolutely deserved for Will Varley.
Words by Georgia Jackson