Review: Will Varley at The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

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It was an overall lovely night and Varley’s performances are something to experience to fully embrace this special connection an artist can have with an audience

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Will Varley played The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth just as his tour was coming to an end and gave a lovely and intimate performance. This tour was special in the sense that all shows were seated, which was unusual for the artist. Varley said he would continue doing standing gigs in the future but that it had been nice having a different experience with the audience. Indeed, there was a true sense of closeness sitting in front of Varley and though his shows are always rich in story-telling and interaction, it was particularly highlighted that night.

The guitar was in the spotlight throughout the whole night. Rich Mayor opened the show with heartfelt songs, sipping a beer in between numbers and ending on a song about men struggling to express their emotions. Ailbhe Reddy performed straight after with a pure and lovely voice despite apparently being very ill the last few days before the gig. She had the crowd laughing in between songs with her witty comments and a very comical rant about Dublin’s underground system.

Finally, the time came for Will Varley to step on stage. With a few cans of Guinness and a glass of bourbon in hand, he received a very warm welcome from the audience. As always, he mastered transitions between peppy upbeat tunes and songs of a slower and darker tone. He took the time to interact with the room throughout the show, with his notorious stopping-in-the-middle-of-a-song moments to share random anecdotes, which never fail to fill the room with laughter. Indeed, during the song ‘Wedding and Wars’, he stopped after the line “Instead of hunting now we go to Tescos”, to amusingly explain how wonderful it was to sing this song to an English audience as people in other countries usually don’t have a clue what he’s referring to and are left puzzled.

He beautifully performed one of his most emotional songs ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, about José Matada, a man who hid and fell from the landing gear of a plane whilst attempting to enter the UK for a better life. He was found in the street of a wealthy area of London in 2012 with just a phone and a £1 coin in this pocket. We could sense it was a song very close to Varley’s heart and he said he was singing in honour of him.

Varley also performed a few of his songs from his latest album Spirit of Minnie, released earlier this year. Yet again, he gave more context to his songs before singing so the audience could connect with him on an even deeper level as he was singing them. His performance of ‘Statues’ left the room in awe, with a nostalgic ambiance, as the lyrics explore the idea of time and that “maybe time is a statue, not a river”.

Portsmouth holds a special place in Varley’s heart as he stopped there to play during his walking tour earlier in his musical journey and seemed delighted to be back. The audience certainly was glad to welcome him there! It was an overall lovely night and Varley’s performances are always something to experience to fully embrace this special connection an artist can have with an audience. As the artist takes a bit of time away from touring in 2019, we shall impatiently wait for his return.

Watch the music video for ‘Seven Days’ below.

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