– Yes, Manchester –



Will Westerman’s only album of his short career so far Your Hero Is Not Dead, came out at that oddest of moments, June 2020. Cast your mind way back to that time two and a half years ago, and you’ll probably have memories of cautiously, but giddily, emerging from your home to see people IRL, albeit at a safe distance, less the plague jumped from them to you. It was a weirdly joyous time for me, tempered by the restrictions and the general ‘wtf’ of it all, and Westerman’s album seemed to capture all those feelings. Soundtracking that hazy, mad summer, as I sat in parks two metres away from anyone, either on my own reading or listening to music, or supping tinnies with mates, it holds a very dear place in my heart. The chance to hear his graceful, elegant, Talk Talk-inspired songs live for the first time is something that fills my heart with warmth.

Sitting down on the stage in Yes’ Pink Room, Westerman explains that ‘he’s not lazy, I’ve just snapped my knee, although yeah I’m lazy too haha’, he’s a bundle of nervous energy, and it shows in the opening few songs. It’s a bit…messy. Vocals are hard to hear, drums are way too loud in the mix, and all of the subtle texture and detail of his gorgeous music seems to be getting lost. I’m pretty worried that this isn’t going to be the Tuesday night delight I thought it would be. But then something happens. He plays ‘Think I’ll Stay’, all perky 80s synth pop, and something clicks. I can hear him clearly, the mix seems to have hit a sweet spot, and he seems to visibly settle into the set. ‘Confirmation’ is gorgeous, his silky falsetto sweeping through the room, the AOR guitars driving the song on, images of driving down a very straight American highway in a convertible car filling my mind, wind in what’s left of my hair, college radio on. The title track to his album is similarly wonderful, that line ‘your hero is not dead’ floors me every time, it’s just perfect. New single ‘Idol; RE-run’ with it’s almost Bon Iver-esque plucked guitar and stops-you-in-your-tracks pay off line of ‘he’s out there running scared, like any other mother fucker’, the ‘mother, fucker’ line repeated gently like it’s a whispered sweet nothing to a loved one, and all the more powerful for it. ‘Blue Comanche’ is a highlight, Westerman and his band bathed in soft blue light, the almost ambient soundscape of the song drifting into the room, it could easily have been penned by Mark Hollis and that is probably the highest compliment I can pay anyone.

When he’s settled down, it’s like being sat in your front room watching your mate play songs, the only difference being that they’re actually good. He’s a shy, cute ball of energy, constantly forgetting to speak into the mic between songs so we can’t really tell what he’s saying, but it’s adorable and makes me love him more. He’s clearly having a great time; instead of finishing his set he asks us if we want to hear a couple of new songs, which is a bit of a gamble to finish on. The two he plays are winners though, hinting at a slightly bigger sound, they point to a promising future for his next album. A mixed bag all in all, but a proper standout second half; Westerman’s next steps are going to be very interesting to watch, very much someone to keep your eye on.

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