I didn’t know who Sons Of Bill were before I was asked to review this gig, and now I’ll never forget them…..
But first… the night was opened by Leeds based band, or in this particular case, artist, Silver Reserve – the songwriting of Matthew Sturgess, whose wit was perfectly in sync with his quirky, haunting songs. Matthew persuaded the audience into his strangeness, with his hilarious morbid charm, keeping us on edge at all times.
After this, we were treated to a great songwriter and friend to Sons Of Bill, Carl Anderson, whose songs shine with pathos and purity. His warmth, clownish humour and appreciation for British new wave beer was made clear… joined by Sam Wilson’s simple, sublime accompaniment on lead guitar and vocals, better known as the lead guitarist in Sons of Bill…
Sons Of Bill’s outcast brotherliness is what makes them so unique. The Virginian three sibling core of the group, with the addition of a superb new bass player and drummer, started with songs off their last two albums. For example, third song in, ‘Believer / Pretender’, from their recently released ‘Oh God Ma’am’, an album which subverts country rock in a gloomy, gripping, and blindingly sharp way. The creeping chorus brings to mind flavours of other backdrop–facing rock bands such as Interpol and The National.
As the packed audience gave them the credit they deserved, the band thanked the crowd and expressed how much they were enjoying their time in Leeds. Other earlier highlights were ‘Brand new paradigm’, a song about being an outsider wanting more out of life – the song encompasses a full circle domino effect of melancholy – and ‘Lost in the Cosmos’, a song off of their last album ‘Love and Logic’, dedicated to Chris Bell from the band Big Star. The song is a heartbreaking poem of wild innocence forever searching and growing distant, sung in brittle, bittersweet three-part harmony…
It soon became time for Sam Wilson to sing ‘Road to Canaan’, a chasing, hungry, home-sounding country song that could be a classic and features the singer Leah Blevins on the ‘Love and Logic’ record.
They played more songs of ‘Oh God Ma’am’ with ‘Where we stand’, a trailing torch song that tells that “time is forever on the run,” and to “direct the tragedy inside the secret theatre of your dreams.” This song shows yet another side of the kaleidoscopic observation of the band and James Wilson’s writing.
The band finished with ‘Santa Ana Winds’, from their 2012 album ‘Sirens’. The song is a fed-up vehicle for rebellion about being on the edge, looking down at the circus antics of close-knit communities, and wanting to destroy what is already in a sane person’s mind dead anyway… It is their anthem from the heart and was the obvious, restless, flame-lapping conclusion to a serious country rock band’s set… A brilliant cliffhanger for the encore.
Just when you thought the band had given you everything, they covered Iron Maiden’s ‘Wasted Years’, which was an amazing demonstration of their ability to drag the spirit out of a song and leave it hanging. This song was made for Sons Of Bill… The band saved another gem for their finishing number with ‘Virginia calling’, a homesick beast of a ballad leaving a bittersweet smoke stain between tongue and teeth… that goes to the chest and leaves eyes lingering on blue embers…
There are no cheap thrills with Sons Of Bill; just a raw, rare, modest passion and talent. The kind of fire that can’t be doused…..
Ed writes creatively for a variety of platforms and has joined Leeds Living to review gigs in the City.