• Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Live review: Willie J Healey provides warmth on a cold Glasgow night

ByMaeve Hannigan

Nov 21, 2019

A relaxed atmosphere exists amongst the crowd in King Tuts on this Wednesday night, or perhaps the crowd has been subdued by the Glasgow rain. Willie J Healey has never played in King Tuts before, yet he arrives on stage with a cheeky all-knowing grin to the audience that automatically intrigues, and convinces us that this is his ‘home from home.’ It’s an impressive aura to have on a stage where so many memorable faces have once played. He claims his space by opening with ‘My Room’ and suddenly he is there before us being silly with his friends, and we, the crowd, are looking in, enviously wanting to join. And we do. 

It is rare that an artist’s voice sounds better live than it does streamed. Very rare. Willie J Healey’s voice is easy, untouched and not trying to be anything other than his own. It is clear that his hero, Neil Young, is evidently present in his playful vocals and catchy yet strikingly emotional lyrics. He and his band seamlessly skip into each song with not the slightest hesitance or acknowledgement of change, keeping the audience’s attention forever locked in their intimate circle of weirdness and relationship chat. The favourites are of course played; Healey’s beautiful slow burner of a track ‘Subterraneans’ is instantly recognised and emotionally welcomed with a pleasant sigh from the audience. His newly released singles, ‘Songs for Joanna’ and ‘Polyphonic Love’,  tiptoe around the other songs, but are accepted and embraced all the same. 

The brief, but instantly engulfing track, ‘Love Her’, is one of Healey’s more upbeat songs that lifts the audience’s mood out of a beautifully heartbroken wallow, and who doesn’t love to wallow? The focus is on the whole band now, as they become one singular spark of passion which pours out into each instrumental solo. The saxophone makes an appearance a couple of times throughout the set, but the sounds indent the surrounding space and remain there till the end. It produces a richness that would most definitely have been missed if it wasn’t there. It gives Healey’s set that little bit more variation between his audience crying over an ex throughout, or maybe it gives them time to contemplate his worryingly relatable lyrics.

After a very loud crowd member’s sixth request of ‘We Should Hang’, it appears that Healey surrenders in the final few minutes of his set and the rest of his band members disperse, leaving him alone with his guitar. “Do you want a slow one?” He’s ridiculously polite.

Healey bookends his gig with one of his most popular tracks in a downplayed, intimate performance. It feels last minute, off the cusp and fragmented, and we feel his vulnerability, which is why it works so well. The audience delicately joins in, as all voices are swept into a romantic Neil Young-esque lullaby.

Image: PR via Brumlive

 

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