Jess and The Bandits
By Lesley Hastings
It may have been a Wednesday night in half term week but that didn’t prevent a great turnout at London’s Borderline tonight to see the force of nature that is Texan native Jessica Clemmons and her British Bandits.
I have been following their musical career for a while now ( was always a fan of Jessica as a solo artist before this reincarnation) and it is fantastic to witness their fan base growing every time I see them perform. No doubt their appearances on the pop up stages at C2C this year guest slots on the BBC R2 Weekend Wogan show have helped, but raw talent is what it is all about and the entire band have this in abundance.
Naturally tonight’s set consisted mainly of songs from their debut album,” Here We Go Again”, released earlier this year and which received brilliant reviews, but a few re-worked covers were also included to produce a well balanced mix especially for anyone there who wasn’t that familiar with the band’s original songs ( Jessica is a very competent songwriter too, by the way!) .
As always, there were strong, accurate and emotional lead vocals which sounded equally good on both the ballads and more uptempo numbers, Jessica is an intelligent interpreter of lyrics knowing instinctively when to reign things in. A very confident performer with great stage presence, she managed to connect well with her audience and moved around the very cramped stage as much as she could. Chat was kept to the minimum, apart from introducing several of the songs and explaining their personal significance, introducing her excellent and very talented band ( consisting lead and bass guitars, keys. drums and pedal steel….the latter particularly important in contributing to their country vibe) and mentioning that the video for ” My Name is Trouble” had won her a BCMA at last Sunday’s ceremony.
Jess and the Bandits seem to gel better every time I see them, and tonight was no exception, they interacted so well and all of them seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves throughout their performance. The boys are not only great musicians but provided fantastic backing vocals and also shared the lead on a couple of the numbers which added good variety, as did inviting support act Liv Austen to join the band on stage for the very catchy “Nitty Gritty” ( about us all being the same inside and that is what is important, not what you look like on the outside) Like the true professional that she is Jess had already thanked both her and The Rising for opening for her. The 75 minute set had the audience singing and dancing, there was a real party atmosphere and the cheering and applause at the end from the very mixed crowd really was well deserved.
Highlights for me last night were “What If?”, a beautiful ballad which Jessica introduced as her most personal song to date, about seizing the day and taking opportunities when they arise ( some particularly lovely lyrics on this one), the fun, uptempo ” Wanted Man” which has single material written all over it in my mind, “She Ain’t Me” ( my first time of hearing this as it is not on their album but available as a separate download) and their cover of ” Wichita Lineman” which is one of my favourite country songs …….but I genuinely enjoyed the entire set although their reggae-fied version of “Piece of my Heart” didn’t really fit in to my mind.
I am really happy for this band’s success so far, long may it continue and if there’s any justice 2016 really will be their year!
Keep an eye on their website for any gigs near you if you want a night of fantastic fun and great music!
Ready, Set Mama Told Me Not to Come ( cover), Single Tonight, Drunk on Me, She Ain’t Me, Nitty Gritty, Love Like That, If You Can’t Be Mine, Getting Into Something, Rock Steady, Piece of my Heart ( cover) Wichita Lineman (cover) My Name is Trouble Somedays You Gotta Dance, You Can’t Stop Me, Wanted Man, What If