Listening to Will Varley, you get a sneaking suspicion that nobody has told him the Vietnam War is over. The straggly, beardy bard of dissatisfaction with a world that doesn’t care has been touring the workers’ clubs and backroom bars of the country for many-a-month and on 16th November he will playing at Bristol’s Thekla, a permanently docked boat on the River Avon. What more fitting metaphor for Varley’s world-weary frustrations could there be than a ship that has forever ground to a halt, which will never again progress upriver, which will never change. Perhaps if he sings his political ballads and tales of boyhood coming-of-age loud enough, the ship’s propellers will splutter into life once again and we will all be carried away on the wake.
Even if Varley’s songs aren’t quite powerful enough to perform industrial miracles, the show promises to be excellent. His recent tour has attracted glowing reviews (including one from a particularly subdued and unemotional friend of mine who was deeply moved by one of Will’s recent London shows) and the intimate atmosphere of Thekla promises fans a close encounter with a true artist of the people.