WILL Varley is a folk singer-songwriter from Kingston and last night he brought his third album, ‘Postcards From Ursa Minor’ to a sold out audience at the independent music venue, Night and Day Cafe, Manchester. Quays News entertainment reporter Georgia McManus was there for us…

Winning the crowd over with his acoustic guitar and powerful raspy voice, he played songs throughout the evening with themes ranging from ex-girlfriends to viral cats to politics.

Also on the bill was London based, indie-folk sister act, Xylaroo. As the venue was filling up they played their latest single ‘Sunshine’, a great indie song that they recently said was inspired by musical icon Dolly Parton.

The atmosphere was building and the venue was buzzing as excitement intensified ahead of the main act of the night. Loud cheers greeted Varley as he walked onto the stage, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and choice of beverage.

The simple set up was instantly brightened up as the singer opened the set with ‘As For My Soul’, the opening track to his latest album. He invited everybody to join in with a sing along of ‘la la la’s’, joking that he couldn’t mess it up as it wasn’t him singing. The lyrics ‘grab a beer’ encouraged everybody to raise their glasses; if the audience did not already feel like a close friend of Varley’s then they definitely will have done by the end of the evening.

Before every song there is a story to go along with it. Not long into the set, he played ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, a deep and meaningful song inspired by a young refugee who fell out of an aeroplane and was found in the suburban areas, just outside of Heathrow.

Next up came a song dedicated to his girlfriend.

By this point he had built a great rapport with the crowd through his conversational style in between tracks. He then went on to play popular song ‘The Self Checkout Shuffle’. Clearly enjoying himself and seizing the opportunity of a receptive crowd he played a brand new song that had only been played live once before. The reaction he received made him look right at home.

He took a bit of time out between songs to shout out to artists Beans on Toast and Frank Turner, who both provided backing vocals for a couple of the songs included in the show. They are all part of the Xtra Mile Recordings family. Earlier this year Varley had been supporting Frank Turner across Europe, and will go on to support fellow label-mates Skinny Lister across the USA for their upcoming tour.

Throwing it out to the crowd for a chance to influence the set, he held a vote to choose the next song. It was between a song about viral cats vs. another one about monkeys and stones, the former was an obvious winner as it received the loudest cheers and went down an instant hit.

Stuart Hughes, described by Varley not only as his merch guy and all-around tour buddy but also an “awesome drummer”, joined him onstage for ‘Advert Soundtracks’. Left out of breath after the song, he joked that being in a band was hard work and looked happy to get back to just him and his guitar for the final part of the gig.

The main set was brought to a close with politically charged ‘We Don’t Believe You’ and ‘Seize the Night’, the first of which included a rousing sing-along during the choruses.

Much to the crowd’s delight they were not left waiting long for the encore as he treated them to crowd-favourites such as ‘King for a King’ and ‘I Got This Email’. There was still time to joke around with the crowd as he put on a Mancunian accent during the latter track.

The level of applause he left the stage to suggests that everybody in the venue had a great evening. Old fans and newcomers alike were united in their appreciation for a fantastic performance put on by Varley, with everyone leaving with a rather large smile on their face.

This rising folk-star is sure to be hitting festivals over the summer so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for his whereabouts…

By Georgia McManus

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