The sun beams down on Hackney, as hordes of guitar music obsessives line-up along Valette Street to enter Moth Club, the hidden gem behind an inconspicuous members bar. It’s an unlikely place to spend your Saturday afternoon, but Willie J Healey has the authority to draw a crowd to this East London nook, and fellow musicians Jamie T and Matt Maltese are just some of the familiar faces spotted amongst the audience.
As the lights dim low and the crowd drives forward, Healey and his band walk nonchalantly up to the stage, plunging straight into the set and thanking the audience “for coming down so early”. From the thunderous pulsations on ‘My Room’, to the scuzzy, feral musings of ‘Love Her’, Healey makes headway on the setlist, setting the pace for what’s to come.
Barely stopping to catch a breath, each track swirls into the next as it rollicks, eases, crashes, and subdues, and Healey’s vocals turn from harmonious to primal. Joyously, there’s barely an iPhone in sight to obstruct your view– somewhat of a rarity nowadays – as Healey’s unrelenting talent is enough to mesmerise. It’s beautiful to witness his presence be adequate enough that the crowd choose to soak in his every note and murmur now, rather than re-live it through their screens later.
Hazing the lights to a valentine red, Healy croons “I don’t want you, but I need you” on ‘Guitar Music’ from his brooding new EP 666 Kill. Echoes of awe and cheer ricochet around the room as the musician swoons with a bluesy guitar solo, accompanied by the faultless skills of his live band. It’s patent to see this show is deserving of bigger stages, but Healey’s unassuming aura is exactly what the intimate surroundings of this venue was made for.
Effortlessly, the room morphs into a reverie as he plays “a couple of slowies for ya”, blissfully transporting the crowd to the rock n roll riffs of the 50s. The ambience becomes romanticised, as the glittered ceilings sparkle to the charming woes of ‘Lovelawn’. Half-wittingly, he dedicates the track to his bandmate Chris Barker, and ponders “have we got any couples in the house?” to which the lack there-of coerced him into teasing “we’ve got a couple of players!”
It’s this light-hearted nature that lifts the room in spite of the heavy undertones on the brand-new tracks. Yet, there’s something in the way they’re performed live that gives them a warm glow in this setting, feeling more tender, impassioned and transcendent.
Sprawling guitars pick up the pace on ‘Lazy Shade of Pink’ as the audience gets a kick from a trailblazing drum solo that crescendos the band into a well-rehearsed fury. Settling back into a gentle melancholy, he finishes the set only to appear back for an encore as eager fans insist “one more song”. As the band disappear, all eyes focus on Healey who softly warbles “my eyes could not really believe, the type of beauty that they see”, reminding everyone that his sweet melodies are just as enchanting stripped-back.
Jumping off stage to meet awaiting fans by the merch stand, Healey looks elated from their gratifications, leaving the room with a feeling that it has witnessed something truly special. It surely won’t be long before the buzz emanating from Willie J Healey takes this show to spaces that match the grandeur of this man’s talent. But, on this autumnal afternoon, the cosy Moth Club couldn’t have been a better place to spend it.