Willie J Healey is the ideal size. I don’t mean height-wise (although he appears to be roughly my height, which is of course the perfect height anyone can be). Willie J Healey has made it to one of the most exciting levels of fame as an artist: he’s selling out shows, he has a loving fanbase, yet he remains accessible, humble, and real. And all of this was on brilliant display during his 4th of October show at Clwb Ifor Bach, in Cardiff.
After the opening band, Hussy, got the crowd nice and warmed-up with their atmospheric rock, Healey took to the stage dressed perfectly to match the mood: laid back, whimsical and stylish as hell. In a pair of rose-coloured sunglasses and a shaggy blue cardigan, he leapt straight into She’s Heroin, and followed it right up with the jangly excellence of Songs 4 Joanna.
The place was crowded, but the venue was small enough that everybody was within high-fiving distance of the band. We shouldered our way to the front, and loaded with cans of Red Stripe from the bar, we threw our coats and jumpers in the beer-damp corner of the room for maximum boogie-power. By this point I’d already spilled plenty of beer over myself and gravely offended an elderly Welshman in the loos, and it didn’t take much to get me leaping around like a grasshopper on bath salts.
As a stage presence, WJH oozes easy charm; you can see the music moving through him as he slaps at his guitar and stamps his feet. My Room was a highlight – the slow thumping rhythm makes for fun bopping. Twin Heavy was a beauty, and Fashun saw the energy of the evening peak, with hands in the air, giddy smiles on faces, and beer flying everywhere. After a pounding, clattering finale in the form of Greys – the last song listed on the setlist we pinched from stage right – WJH changed his mind. With his bandmates leaving the stage to whoops and cheers, the red-headed singer stayed behind for one last song: an acoustic, soulful rendition of We Should Hang, with full, eager accompaniment from the crowd. It put one last smile on my face.
Until we left the gig in the rain to find we’d missed the last train and had to pay £133 for a taxi back to Bristol. C’est la vie.