Wednesday night at London’s famous venue, The Borderline, was a feast of top quality British Country Music. Headline act Jess and The Bandits, halfway through their UK tour, were a major draw, and the venue was certainly packed solid.
I had made an error of judgement by going to sit down after The Rising finished their set. When Jess and The Bandits hit the stage, there was no way I was going to be able to get back down the front again – I did try, but it’s testament to how loyal JATB’s fans are, that I was told in no uncertain terms, once I was about 4 rows back, that there was no way I was going to get any closer! And fair enough too!
Opening with ‘Ready Set’, the lead track on their album, ‘Here We Go Again’, Jess warmed up the crowd with her high energy, big vocal performance. This was followed by ‘Single Tonight’, a dance number that made many of the audience do just that, several pulling away to the back where there was slightly more room to do more than just bop along to the music.
In our interview with Jess on Monday night she mentioned that she had ordered a fan for the duration of the tour, and seeing her in action we understood why. Jess doesn’t stop moving from the second she hits the stage – but we can confirm the fan behaved itself, and gave her hair the “Beyonce” feel she had been going for!
Working their way through songs from their album, punctuated by some really well thought out covers, including a really powerful take on Janice Joplin’s, ‘Piece of My Heart’, Jess and The Bandits showed just how real their musical chemistry is. Telling the audience the story of how they came to work together, you knew that they have more than just a working relationship, they’re also firm friends.
Highlights of the evening included a duet with Liv Austen, who had performed earlier, on ‘Nitty Gritty’, the song for which Jess and The Bandits is probably most famous for with the Great British Public, due to its association with women’s clothing store, Evans. It lends itself well to a duet, and Jess and Liv brought the house down.
My favourites of the night were ‘My Name is Trouble’, and their beautiful cover of Glenn Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’. The video for ‘Trouble’ won Jess and The Bandits the best video gong at this year’s British Country Music Awards: the song is a real ripper – punchy, feisty, raunchy even.
Another aside to the audience was about how they came to cover ‘Lineman’. Having been challenged to cover a Glenn Campbell song, and Jess refusing to even countenance ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, it was suggested that they try ‘Wichita Lineman’. They seriously couldn’t have made a better choice. Although one day I’d like to see what Jess could do with ‘Cowboy’, she’s certainly made ‘Lineman’ her own, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the tears welling up when she sings it!
Officially finishing with ‘Wichita Lineman’, the audience had no intention of leaving, and so Jess and The Bandits came back on with a two song encore, a cover of The Dixie Chicks’, ‘Some Days You Gotta Dance’ (which got even more people dancing) and their own song, ‘Wanted Man’. It was a fantastic night, with some of the songs still going through my head even now, two nights since.
Jess and The Bandits are in Manchester tonight at Gullivers, and round off their UK and Ireland tour tomorrow night at King Tut’s, Glasgow.