Richard Brabin is charmed by the charismatic Willie J Healey in a special show at an art gallery – and wonders if we'll see the like again...

Willie J Healey

Modern Art Oxford

May 5 2017

Like the perennially unbaptised child of Catholic dogma, Willie J Healey currently abodes somewhat in limbo. Albeit a less tyrannical and more artistic branch of purgatory, Healey patiently awaits the storm after the calm.

Having finished his much anticipated album and a high profile tour support slot with the hugely popular Palace, the horizon looks lethargically quiet until the album drops and the inevitable whirlwind begins to pick up pace.

Healey’s intimate show at Modern Art Oxford could well be the last of its kind for some time, as Oxford prepares to cut the umbilical chord of its most prized and beloved son.

From a breathlessly spellbinding evening’s entertainment, it is certainly apparent that Healey has found his groove both professionally and musically. Whereas previous releases have showcased his cross-pollinated, eclectic approach to his trade, Healey’s more recent work appears to have found genuine common ground which is both consistently individual and beautifully unique. The fuzz and crunch of choruses is a delight and his simultaneously laid back but confrontational tone is a wonderful paradox that journeys throughout the performance.

Tracks such as Greys and Lazy Shade Of Pink, both due to appear on the forthcoming album, showcase his natural propensity for both groove and melody and if Healey can maintain the consistency and personality of these two absolute belters, it’ll be an album that will surely prove the tipping point as regards Willie’s assent into much, much more than merely a local hero.

Time on the road has strengthened Willie’s attributes to that of a musical behemoth who now appears to have it all as regards performance, songwriting and musicianship.

One of the truly mesmerising components of Healey’s talents is his affability and charm as not only a performer and musician but as a human being. It seeps into every strum of every chord, bringing a Zen-like joy to each and every soul that experiences him. Looking around at the beaming faces as Willie performs is as heartwarming as his onstage grace and humility.

If music was designed to make people feel good then Willie J Healey is applying it to it’s highest purpose.