With the UK’s love affair with country music having been reignited over the last couple of years, no doubt thanks to what can only be called the Taylor Swift effect, there have been a few acts that audiences on these shores have taken to heart. While Kacey Musgraves and Lindi Ortega tick the box for those who want something with a quirky old school edge and The Shires add a pop-folk edge, it is the Texan/British quintet Jess and the Bandits who bring the sexy swagger that is most reminiscent of Shania Twain’s global domination.
Having soared into the upper echelons of the UK Country charts with their debut album Here We Go Again and dominated Radio 2 playlists over the last year, with the iconic Terry Wogan and Bob Harris both declaring themselves fans, Jess and the Bandits broke into the mainstream. Fashion retailer Evans even named stunning vocalist Jess Clemmons their new face and their irresistible single Nitty Gritty saw them explode on to British TV screens. With all eyes and ears alert to their next move, the band are currently making their way around the UK on their debut headline tour.
Having already sold out several of their regional dates, the band arrived at London’s The Borderline for their third sold out London show of the year. With their fans hungry for a show as memorable as their show stealing Brooklyn Bowl set at C2C, anticipation is high as cutesy songstress Liv Austen kicked off the evening’s proceedings as one of the support acts. A distinctive vocalist, Austen is the flawless girl next door whose modesty adds to her appeal. Although her set is only brief, it is clear she is destined for big things.
Belfast based The Rising were up next. Having gained a loyal following thanks to their sporadic performances over the last year, London based fans are elated to witness their consummate set. Although the band need to develop their on stage banter, their sound is a striking rock country fusion that will no doubt follow Jess and the Bandits on to the Radio 2 playlist.
With the Bandits slinking subtly on to stage, showman drummer Ricci Riccardi brings an air of comedic fun as he introduces Clemmons. Immediately romping into Ready Set, it is clear that the evening is going to be a riotous sing along as the fans erupt into the chorus alongside the flame haired vocalist.
Having set the bar high, the band consistently deliver throughout a set that contains a selection of gems from the band’s debut and some very well selected covers. Excelling with their distinctive four part harmonies, the group break the current trend for two part harmonies and shine brighter than their contemporaries for their efforts. While the Sam Hunt-esque Getting Into Something has the room wanting to grab the person next to them and grind and single My Name Is Trouble proves uncontainable in all its live glory, it is in the tender moments that vocalist Clemmons sends electrifying shivers down the audience’s spine. The flawless rendition of Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman and sensationally moving What If show that while this band like to party, they sure as hell know how to move you to tears too.
Closing on an irrepressible cover of Dixie Chicks’ Some Days You Gotta Dance and the fiery Wanted Man, the audience are left hungry for more at the end of the band’s 75 minute set.
An act on par with the greatest contemporary country acts, from Little Big Town to Lady Antebellum, this is a band destined for greatness. Catch them now before the venues get too big for you to really see them up close.
All pictures courtesy of John Bull – Rockrpix.com