Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wille & The Bandits - Inchyra Arts Club, 9 March 2020

Well this is nice.  Tonight’s venue, The Byre at Inchyra, is all candlelit tables and chairs, with a warm atmosphere and some pretty nifty lighting, and what’s more it’s impressively busy for a place several miles outside Perth on a wet Monday night.  So fair play to the Inchyra Arts Club who’ve laid this gig on.
Fair play to Wille & The Bandits too, who’ve clearly established themselves as a good draw on a couple of previous visits here.  And with good reason, because Wille & The Bandits are something else.
This is a rock band with an underlying blues sensibility, but who bring an unusual level of variety and inventiveness to their music.  And tonight’s performance confirms that this is still
Wille Edwards feels the pain - Matthew Gallagher empathises
the case, notwithstanding their reconfiguration from a three-piece to a four-piece following the departure of long-term rhythm section partners Matt Brooks and Andy Naumann.  The new line-up may have brought subtle changes to their sound, most notably through the addition of Matthew Gallagher’s keyboards, but it hasn’t occasioned radical change.
You want great hooks?  They got ‘em.  There’s the anthemic ‘One Way’, with its chant-along chorus, it’s rhythm both funky and hurtling, garlanded by a slithering lap slide solo from main man Wille Edwards on his Weissenborn guitar.  ‘Make Love’ is another rallying call that’s even twitchier in its rocking funkiness, with a winding and weaving guitar riff, and Gallagher supplying some additional Fender Rhodes colourings.  Meanwhile ‘Victim Of The Night’ is fresh and melodic, its catchiness underlined by harmonies and its energy reinforced by a turbo-charged conclusion, and ‘Judgement Day’ has a chorus that rolls evenly through several lines before snapping into the title and releasing an earworm of a spiky little guitar line.
But there’s a proggy dimension to the Bandits too, which they reveal at the heart of their set.  On ‘Mammon’ Edwards manages to counterpoint pithy commentary about greed and materialism with a romantic chorus that asks “Will you love me when the waves start to fall”, set to lovely acoustic guitar interplay of a Spanish classical bent between himself and Gallagher, and sensitive vocal harmonies.  ‘Four Million Days’ aspires to an epic sweep, with lush keys and a soaring chorus, but is merely a warm-up for the magnificent ‘Angel’.  A lengthy instrumental dedicated to Edwards’ late mother, it encompasses synth-widdling from Gallagher, a Latino-tinged passage that hints at Santana, and Edwards both strumming away furiously on his acoustic and coaxing a remarkable, piercing tone from it on a dazzling solo.
Their world music influences are somewhat diminished by the lack of former sticksman Andy Naumann’s tongue drumming, but they do add some colour with bongos here and there, as on the aforementioned ‘Mammon’.  And there’s no denying the powerhouse rhythm work summoned up by bassist Harry Mackaill and 18-year old drummer Finn McAuley, as evidenced on the final encore ‘Virgin Eyes’, for example.  (Yep, you read that right – just 18 years old, but McAuley belies his young years with this performance.)
Troy Redfern: he can rock a hat - and a resonator
There’s an appealing hippy idealism to Edwards’ lyrics, whether in the form of anti-rat race sentiments or the affirmative desire for a “Good time, love and peace” of the upbeat set
closer ‘1970’.  He delivers these with commitment, in a husky, passionate voice, now and then resorting to a semi-rapping rhythmic style for variation.  And his guitar playing is a delight throughout, whether in the form of precision-tooled finger picking or slide that ranges from Peter Green-esque weeping to huge, Page-like grinding.
Wille Edwards comes across as an amiable and humble sort of guy, but there's no doubt in my mind that he and his Bandits deserve more recognition.  They dare to be different, and boy do they do it well, with conviction and real quality.  Go see ‘em – you won’t be disappointed.
Support comes from the Troy Redfern Band, a trio who very much fit the blues-rock power trio mould.  They open up with some hard-edged, slide-infused boogie on ‘See You On The Other Side’, and ‘Back Door Blues’ is a stomper on which the bass and drums supply rock solid foundations, while Redfern switches guitar mid-song to a Les Paul for a bright solo.  I can’t say I’m that taken with the slow blues of ‘Double Trouble’ though, on which a screaming solo is long on technique and speed, but for me short on dynamics and emotion.
Much more interesting is ‘Waiting For Love’, on which Redfern cooks up a swampy groove on resonator guitar, while the closing ‘Satisfied’ is a pleasing uptempo rocker with a lengthy but varied solo that goes from squealing reverb to controlled restraint and fits in some pseudo-Arabic moves along the way.  There’s better to come from Redfern and co, methinks, if they can harness a bit more subtlety to leaven their material.

Wille & The Bandits are on tour into April - dates here.

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