William The Conqueror The Railway, Winchester ***** Live Review

NOVEMBER 29, 2019

This was BOON’s first visit to The Railway. It’s a great little venue, the back room of a pub. There’s good sound, painted black for acoustics and atmosphere, and no natural light. It’s a similar venue to The Star in Guildford, The Prince Albert in Brighton and The Black Heart in Camden. Pubs like this are playing a big part in keeping music live.

Ags Connolly warmed up with a terrific 40-minute support set. Great songs confidently performed with personality to spare and an authentic voice. His breakup country songs contain dark humour and smart lyrics. Connolly played several tracks from his excellent new album Wrong Again. No wonder he is getting rave reviews from people such as Bob Harris.

Two albums in, William The Conqueror are working on their third. The group’s second, Bleeding On The Soundtrack, is shortlisted for an Americana Music Association award.

Ruarri Joseph’s storytelling over his wonderful, oft discordant guitar playing is matched by the emphatic drumming of Harry Harding and the pulsating bass of Naomi Holmes.

The first two tracks, Move On and Deep End wereboth new numbers. The new material is strong, there were five new songs in the 90-minute set. “You gotta try ‘em [new songs] in front of a crowd you know” said Joseph. They tried and they succeeded.

The rocky and powerful Sensitive Side typifies Joseph’s languid delivery, self-deprecating lyrics and is a powerful track. Cold Ontario is a staple in the band’s live performances and began with a dreamy guitar intro. Highlights included Pedestals, Tend To The Thorns and the new Suddenly Scared.

The catchy and amusing Thank Me Later could/should be a hit single. The title track of their second album closed the main set and the title track of the first acted as encore.

The band is attracting a loyal following, the enthusiastic crowd bayed for more and were well rewarded. The trio played perhaps their best recorded track live, as In My Dreams got a first ever live outing and closed this magnificent show. Bassist Holmes later told BOON they’d not played it live before as the song is so layered on the album.

William The Conqueror are going from strength to strength. This three-piece has a big future.

Words and Live photo: Chaz Brooks