It’s funny witnessing the difference 18 months can make. The last time Oxford singer-songwriter Willie J Healey played a Brighton headline show it was at a half-empty Green Door Store. Now, after switching from Sony to Yala! Records, as well as supporting Slaves around the UK, he’s one of the brightest indie sparks in the country. His headline set at a rammed Prince Albert – and, honestly, is there a better sight in the entirety of Brighton’s music scene? – was testament to this; no longer a breezy UK alternative to Mac DeMarco, Willie J Healey has developed into a varied talent brimming with indie joy and an added bite.
Support on the night came from indie newcomer Jelly Boy. Signed to Brighton’s Cannibal Hymns, the project from Happyness’ Benji Compston is already off to a very exciting start. Stating that this was the first time he had performed some of these songs outside of his bedroom, it was a very impressive set filled with jangly, summer indie-pop. Debut single ‘Give Up and Gamble’, in particular, is a fast-paced number that sounds like T-Rex meets the Cocteau Twins. With a support slot to Our Girl after this tour, it looks like Jelly Boy could be your new favourite indie artist.
There was an excited glee swirling around The Prince Albert’s small room once Willie J Healey had arrived on stage, and the artist took those good vibes and turned it into quite the set. Playing songs from his debut album People and their Dogs, as well as from his moody 2018 EP 666 Kill, there’s a more varied nature to Healey’s set than ever before. Opening with ‘People and Their Dogs’ to a buoyant cheer, the stuttering indie banger was the start of a set that kept escalating until a thrilling finale.
Elsewhere, the gloomy ‘666 Kill’ was a spluttering, somber moment that perfectly matched The Prince Albert’s aura and launched one of the loudest sing-alongs of the night. While ‘Lovelawn’, from the very same EP, is a smooth and melodic blast that truly highlights Healey’s skill as an excellent wordsmith. On this evidence, there’s no doubt that 666 Kill has boosted his profile for a very good reason: it’s utterly brilliant. However, there’s still a hankering and sheer passion for his older work, too, with ‘Lazy Shade of Pink’ and ‘Subterraneans’ creating an outpouring of energy from their very first notes.
With the likes of Laurie Vincent from Slaves in attendance, this set was as much evidence that Willie J Healey is about to join indie’s elite as anything is. A cocktail of classic rock, jangly indie, and gloom pop, Willie J Healey has seemingly got the whole package. With an endearing and bungling sense of fun, alongside a surge of fans joining his conquest in the last few months, too, the sky’s the limit for the Oxfordshire talent. This was everything good about a sold-out event in a small room; passionate and utterly in love with the music, it was an evening of infectious fun.