Sons Of Bill – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton – 13th August 2018

Photo by Dan Whitehouse

Hailing from Charlottesville, Virginia, Sons Of Bill began their tour this week, kicking off the UK leg of it in Brighton. As a warm up to their London show, SOB took to the stage at The Hope & Ruin, in support of their new, audacious record Oh God Ma’am. The band’s new record pushes them into new territories, taking an 80s-inspired sound but plunging it into a darker direction.

The band haven’t abandoned their Americana sound, but they have incorporated it and matured as their work has progressed. Having formed in 2005, they’ve got an extensive discography behind them and have recorded several albums, a couple of EPs and released a standalone single in ‘Bad Dancer/Higher Than Mine’.

Despite the 7pm door time stated, this was pushed back until around 7.45, by which point fans had started to show up. Upon arrival, it was clear from the set times that Carl Anderson would be supporting, and he opened the show around 8.30, to a growing, eager crowd.

Anderson’s stage setup was minimal, consisting of just a fellow guitarist and himself. As an individual who has previously been compared to Bob Dylan, Anderson’s stage persona and performance justified the comparison and his crowd interaction between songs made for a great set. It would be hard to write about his performance without noting his great sense of humour, as he joked, “I’ll be honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time on this” before performing a particular track.

Anderson noted the quiet but attentive crowd which, while some would see as a negative, he actually appreciated, stating that previously he’s played bars where people are “cashing up” and “distracted”, rather than engaging with his performance. The crowd roared in hysterics as he spoke of a time he’d described a drink on stage as “yummy”, with his manager later clarifying “yummy” is probably the least rock’n’roll term he could’ve used.

Shortly after Anderson’s strong opening performance, Sons Of Bill began to a high capacity room of fans. The band’s new record translated into an excellent live performance and, despite having five people on stage, there was still a raw, acoustic feel to the set. Combining soothing instrumentation with strong vocals, the band gripped the crowd, as they listened attentively and cheered between each song.

As a band seemingly growing in their studio recordings, it’s clear they’re refining their live performances to accommodate these changes and keep the interest of fans old and new. There was a confidence in their performance which can only be achieved by a band who’ve been together as long as SOB and have toured as extensively as they have. Highlight from the set was new track ‘Firebird ’85’, a psychedelic song which combines catchy riffs and dreamy vocals, a testament to the band’s talent.

For a band exploring new horizons, SOB put on a great performance and it was nice to see an act such as Carl Anderson, clearly destined to headline his own shows, performing alongside them. If this is any indication of the rest of the band’s tour, fans are in for a treat. Anderson is accompanying them throughout their shows in the UK and Germany.

Dan Whitehouse