Winchester Pub, Bournemouth

Wille And the bandits

It’s well known that a new album can significantly change the fortune of any band, and luckily Wille and The Bandits have reached a defining moment in their time as a band through third studio album “Grow”. They have spent years promoting their previous two records, “New Breed” and “Breakfree” across Europe through non stop, sweat and blood fuelled shows in both arenas; touring with the likes of Status Quo and Deep Purple, to playing the intimate pubs you’d find on your local street corner.

Finally, they undertake a headline tour to promote their latest release, to take a chance to prove that they are ready to quit the pubs and light up the proudest music venues the UK has to offer.

Unfortunately due to being a bit of an idiot, I missed opener Aaron Percival (sorry Aaron). However, I did manage to catch (the entirety of) Ben Waugh, one of the guys behind the outstanding Flat 13 Records store from just down the road. His disctinct vocals gracefully mould around the bluesy riffs he exhibits, sitting alone on stage with a defining glint of pride in his eye. I’d like to see him experiement with a bassist and a drummer to expand on his exciting craftsmanship, as on his own I don’t see too much potential for the progression of his craft.

Finishing tonight’s supports is local open mic legend, Basic Blues Jones who calmly strolls on and does what he does best; basic, rough and ready blues. It’s a performance from a man who clearly isn’t concerned about stealing people’s attention through his crowd interaction, but instead plays a decent collection of memorable (if not slightly predictable) bluesy acoustic tracks.

Just as our headliners for this evening make their way on stage, a quick glance around the venue immediately tells me that…yes, Wille and the Bandits have cracked the code. After previously seeing them reach near tonight’s capacity on a Friday night, the band emerge to a sold out venue…on a Tuesday (yes, a bloody Tuesday). You wouldn’t know it’s midweek, as their passionate fanbase sinks into the deep grooves of opener and debut record favourite ‘Keep Your Head Up’. There is an initial slight moment of worry, I have to say, as drummer Andy sticks on a pair of headphones before this song kicks in to work a backing track into their intro. My worry stems from my belief that a band like this shouldn’t need to rely on backing tracks, no matter how minimal they were. Surely roots music is about the raw instrumentation and vocal work?

Willie And The Bandits
Willie And The Bandits 12

Minor matters aside, their set comprimises of an hour and a half of staggeringly controlled diversity, meaning that the band are able to stampede through the likes of latest single “Gypsy Women”, whilst seemlessly transcending into the gentle “Mammon” and the impeccable beauty of the New Milton influenced “Under The Grove”. As the band finish with their usual onslaught, the hypnotic “Angel” sends The Winchester into a different world. The lengthy epic may last around the same length as three songs usually should, but it leaves us all in a transported state of mind which never squanders our attention. Yet again on this stage, the band can barely reach the steps down to ground level, before a bellowing roar for an encore beckons them back to play their classic rendition of Dire Strait’s “Money For Nothing”; a superb version of the classic which in my eyes (and ears) rivals the original!

Wille And the bandits

Tonight has well and truly proved that Wille and the Bandits are ready to take their music beyond expectations. The outstanding display of talent from all three members and genuine warmth in their modest delivery highlights the new found rewards of a band who have worked their socks off without justified outcome for too long…but now, they can take things to a whole new level. Wille and the Bandits are in a league of their own.

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Words & Pictures by George Fullerton.1

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