The three men lined up across the front of the Brudenell stage are Sons of Bill. Quite literally, as it turns out, given that they are three bothers and have named their band after their family connection with their father. James Wilson, Sons of Bill’s lead vocalist and guitarist, stands centre stage. He is flanked by his two older brothers. Seated to his right is Abe on keys, whilst stood on his left is lead guitarist Sam. Both older brothers also provide what turn out to be the most impeccable harmony/backing vocals.
The three siblings are accompanied here by relatively new recruits Will Honaker and Harry Miree on their respective bass guitar and drums and judging by the permanent smiles on these two non-family members’ faces, they are more than happy to be out here with the Wilson brothers on their first-ever European tour.
The five musicians are now four dates into a tour that has been planned to promote the recent release of Sons of Bill’s fifth album, Oh God Ma’am, and as if to affirm this point the band immediately knock out four songs from the record on the bounce.
Just like the band itself, ‘Good Morning (They Can’t Break You Now)’, ‘Firebird ‘85’, ‘Green to Blue’, and the first single to be taken from the new album, ‘Believer/Pretender’ are incredibly fresh and alive. The sound that Sons of Bill capture on these new songs could easily be placed on a sonic spectrum that somehow connects R.E.M. and The War on Drugs, two other American bands who in their respective histories have managed to carefully balance thoughtful introspection with the most inspirational of all-out, guitar-fuelled cosmic assaults on the senses.
Another musical reference point for Sons of Bill is Big Star, the cult Memphis band whose classic line-up existed between 1971 and 1974 and whose impressive musical legacy still reverberates strongly down the years. They dedicate ‘Lost In The Cosmos’ (a song from their previous album, 2014’s Love and Logic) to original Big Star member Chris Bell. In it, and not for the first and most definitely not the last time tonight, Sam Wilson peels off a stunning guitar solo that just picks you up and carries you off to another, far more heavenly place.
Later, in what is a beautifully weighted set, Messrs Honaker and Miree leave the stage to allow the three brothers to perform a delightful ‘Fishing Song’ on their own. Sam Wilson then gets the opportunity to take over lead vocal duties for a suitably eloquent ‘Road to Canaan’ before the band invite principal support act and fellow Virginian Carl Anderson back onto the stage to join them for ‘Joey’s Arm’, a song taken from Sons of Bill’s second album, One Town Away.
A richly deserved encore sees Sons Of Bill tackle Iron Maiden’s ‘Wasted Years’ with what is a gorgeously stripped-back interpretation of the metal titans’ classic, before bidding a most fond farewell to Leeds with a gloriously plaintive ‘Virginia Calling’. It brings to a triumphant close an excellent show, one that has highlighted the purity of the band’s collective heart, their unfettered humility and great desire to make a strong musical and emotional connection with their audience.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be found HERE