Willie J Healey
- Trudy and the Romance
There’s something about the stage presence of WILLIE J HEALEY. An eccentric yet charming frontman with a knack for witty yet melancholic lyricism, and gentle yet exhilarating instrumentals. The musical embodiment of a juxtaposition, his back catalogue delves into a multitude of genres, yet each track is easily identifiable as his own. Tonight, he’s clinging onto his auburn guitar, a bobble hat perched jauntily on his head, and advertising tonight’s support band TRUDY AND THE ROMANCE on a t-shirt which he jokingly claims the band charged him “£60” for.
Liverpool’s own Trudy and the Romance weave a tapestry of soulful intonations, jaunty rhythms, and romantic lyrics, setting the scene for tonight’s headliner. Frontman Oliver Taylor grins, flourishing his trusty guitar and engaging with the excitable crowd. Glistening blues-rock number Doghouse from their debut record Sandman receives rapturous applause. Meanwhile, ethereal early single Is There a Place I Can Go transforms Leaf into a 1950s’ time capsule, with its nostalgic instrumentation and layered vocal harmonies.
Anticipation is high when Healey eventually takes to the stage. The Oxfordian singer-songwriter has brought a band of friends to enhance his performance, yet all eyes are simply fixed on the main man himself. Mesmerising from start to finish, Healey’s setlist is testament to the diverse discography he’s crafted over the years. Tracks like Fashun recall the baroque spirit of Scott Walker, whilst We Should Hang rather resembles the pensive ponderings of Elliot Smith.
Why You Gotta Do It, a track underscored by its jangly rhythm and kaleidoscopic riff, inspires a collective sing-along with its huge, anthemic chorus. 70s psychedelia is a prevalent influence on many of Healey’s tracks. But equally he has a penchant for thrashing guitars and pounding percussion that may sit more comfortably on a heavy rock album.
His vocals range from a groovy lilt on For You to complete nonchalance on All Those Things. From the gravelly tones of Love Her to the deep and deliberate delivery of the evening’s penultimate track Subterraneans. The latter track begins with slow-burning guitar lines and observational musings, before developing into a raucous head-banger, and one that invokes quite a frenzy among the crowd. “We’re sub-terra-ne-ans! / Society’s aliens” Healey yells, emphatically nodding along to each carefully enunciated syllable. A chorus of concertgoers echo him in attempted unison.
At one point Healey grabs an audience member’s phone and begins filming himself. By the end of the song Healey puts the phone in his pocket and feigns keeping it before handing it back. It’s this tongue-in-cheek bravado that makes Healey such an enigmatic performer and enables him to build a strong rapport with his crowd.
Closing the set with fan-favourite We Should Hang, Healey dedicates this number to “Harry Deacon, my most handsome friend.” A captivated crowd sing every word right back at Healey, resulting in an extended acapella rendition, making for a poignant ending to a glorious night.