Wille and the Bandits at the Borderline
The warm, appreciative, and mature audience crowding the underground bar of Soho’s The Borderline for a performance by UK blues rockers, Wille and the Bandits. It includes a sizeable Dutch contingent that presumably joined the bandwagon during recent festival performances in the Netherlands.
The band’s ability to inspire such jet-setting loyalty may in some part be down to their grounding in the eternally appealing classic blues style. Indeed, on first regarding them, Wille and the Bandits might strike you as simply a throwback to 60s/70s power trios such as Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. However, any such pigeonholing fades from mind as raucous opener Hot Rocks kicks into gear. While the core of their sound certainly has a retro edge, these Bandits also display enough innovative musicality to be unique. This ethos is exemplified by a cover of Black Magic Woman that manages to deviate from, perhaps even transcend, both the early Fleetwood Mac original and Carlos Santana’s famous cover with its high-octane swagger.
Frontman Wille Edwards switches deftly between lap slide and traditional acoustic guitars, with both the skill and effects gadgetry required to wring a huge range of rock sounds from each. Original compositions often feature delicately picked harmonics as well as blistering solos, and Edwards’ powerfully ranging voice can come carrying either a sledgehammer or a spoonful of honey. Alongside him, Matt Brooks (bass) and Andy Naumann (drums) are equally virtuosic, adding shades of folk, funk and world music to the heady musical brew. It’s possible to see Brooks taking a bow to his double bass (as on the haunting Forgiveness) or Nauman front and centre leading proceedings on the Djembe drum as much as it is possible to find the rhythm section in the traditional supporting role.
The show ostensibly closes with Angel, a heartfelt tribute to Edwards’ Mother (who was presumably a fan of extended instrumental psychedelic wig-outs), before an encore of 1970 pays homage to the heyday of the blues-rock tradition. As the preceding 90 minutes has attested, Willie and the Bandits are helping to keep that tradition alive and fresh in inimitable fashion.
Photo: Stuart Boyland
For further information about Wille and the Bandits and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Angel here: