Will Varley – Thekla, Bristol (16th Nov 2016)

Returning for his second headline tour of 2016, Will Varley took to the iconic boat-based venue in Bristol last week alongside his friends in Cocos Lovers for another excellent duo lineup. It’s been a big year for the Kent songwriter, celebrating the success of his ‘Postcards From Ursa Minor’ release by journeying and playing around the globe. Fresh off an American tour with dear friend Beans On Toast, he came back to conquer the UK once again with the release of his new album Kingsdown Sundown.

Opening the early evening, Cocos Lovers were greeted with surprise from the sold out crowd when the 7-piece band filed out onstage with an assortment of instruments. For a chilly and soggy evening, they were the perfect band to provide a cozy and warm atmosphere on the floating venue. Their sound was so upbeat, harmonised and overall excellent that each song ended up in uproar of applause, and definitely made a few new fans that evening. It was also quite entertaining to see one member occasionally play a hauntingly beautiful sound on what appeared to be a saw – using a violin bow delicately on the edges of the tool, making a similar yet more delicate sound as a string-based instrument.

It was also noticed that two of the members had formed Varley’s opening support duo earlier this year, going by the name Molly’s Lips – which definitely explained the similar soft sounds and smart songwriting between the two groups. They are also both local to Varley, all yielding from their common hometown of Deal (Kent), which is often strange for support acts on tours – but for Varley’s case, it’s the best decision that he’s made, as both have been absolutely excellent choices.

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With the crowd completely packing out the 400 capacity main room of the boat – both upstairs and down – Varley took to the stage for a lengthy set almost two hours long. With a great mix of tracks old and new, he showcased the best of the new release ‘Kingsdown Sundown’ – including ‘We Want Our Planet Back’, ‘To Build a Wall’ and ‘One Last Look At The View’. In comparison to his tour earlier this year, a very different atmosphere was present at the show, which is definitely reflected in the way he presents his latest album, too. It seems 2016 has allowed Varley to develop from the more comedic stand-up style songwriting, to much more dark and serious themes – which seemed rather fitting after the worldwide matters of politics this year has seen.

One outstanding moment in the set was surprisingly from the delicate track ‘When She Wakes Up’, also from Kingsdown Sundown, where Varley gave a background story on the track and performed it to the audience in complete and utter silence. This was a relief – as through earlier tracks in the evening there was a lot of chatter at the back of the venue, which is never the best thing when watching one artist (especially as quiet and gentle-sounding as Varley) perform alone to a sold out crowd.

The show wasn’t entirely short of laughs, though – as in an interval he decided to introduce the audience to some of the ‘first songs’ he had ever written as an artist, back in the days where he was rather influenced by big bands like Blink-182, which evoked chuckles as Varley imitated a rather terrible American accent in the style of the infamous Tom DeLonge.

Ending the show on ‘King For A King’ (which for some reason was requested repeatedly throughout the show by a woman bothering Varley at the side stage, mildly irritating both him and everyone in the room), it felt he was both really appreciative and happy to have sold out such a large venue, but grateful to be at the end of a long tour – he’s had such a long year on the road, that no blame can come from feeling possibly a little tired! He definitely deserves a long rest over Christmas with the amazing amount of travelling and performing he’s done in 2016, alongside family and friends – and we can only hope he gets that, before 2017 turns round the corner with what it has to offer.

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