A wash of blue and purple lights across the stage adds their colours to a range of different microphones, instruments and pieces of kit placed in readiness.
At first, it’s quiet. More people enter the room, heading through an archway to the bar. Plastic pint glasses in hand, a crowd begins to form, sitting and standing either solo or in little clusters. Quiet chatter begins as we wait for support, Joviale, to make their appearance.
To a silent yet eager crowd, Joviale takes to the stage, wearing a grey top, black trousers, and black headscarf – the outfit topped off by a singular yellow ribbon tied around their neck. The bass player followed quickly behind, dressed in grey jeans, blue shirt and red vans, looking rather like a laid back substitute teacher. Joviale gently steps to the mic and begins to sing, their voice filling the room with atmospheric, reverb-drenched vocals. Instant goosebumps appear and any doubts or preconceptions were swiftly erased.
After finishing their opening track, completely acapella, Joviale turns around and places a white, Dolly Parton-esque guitar decorated with various stickers over their body. As the pair starts playing the next track, a haze of violet light casts over them. The transcendent vocal melodies of Joviale are accompanied by spare, country-esque chord progressions – completely elevated by the bass player holding down the rhythm. Even with the absence of any percussion it’s hard not to tap your foot or bop your head to the undeniable rhythm being generated.
Part way through the set it became clear why Joviale had been chosen as a clear lead into the sounds of Westerman – the man himself can be seen in the crowd, watching their set, wearing a black jacket, ripped blue jeans with frayed fabric resting on his black boots with red laces.
Before going into their last song Joviale politely thanks the crowd, in their own words – “for being so nice” then left the stage to a gentle but completely appreciative round of applause. Joviale is truly a brilliant musician and this was a brilliant way to start the night.
Recommended tracks: Glass Peach, Dreamboat and UW4GM.
After a short break, the room slowly but surely begins to fill up. Westerman enters via a side door to the left of the stage. Alone. He treads the small steps and walks onto the stage. Met with a round of applause, he immediately sits down at the keyboard positioned on the left side of the stage. Gently, he raises his hand and gestures to the audience to come forward. Seated people begin to stand up, forming a more condensed crowd about a metre or two from the edge of the stage.
The sounds of Westerman begin – breaking the silence by going into a track titled ‘Spring’. Delicate piano chords begin sounding out, before stopping rather suddenly. Westerman laughs, appearing to play the wrong chord – “It doesn’t go like that”, he says before starting up again.
After the last chord of ‘Spring’ rings out, and a gap no longer than 30 seconds, his band joins him on stage. Westerman stands up, revealing an outfit that wouldn’t be out of place in the middle of the Blade Runner universe. Donning a Western era, grey trench coat paired with black trousers, a black top and (opting for no shoes) black socks to match.
Once his band settles in, Westerman comes away from the piano and joins them. He grabs a white telecaster from an upright guitar stand at the back of the stage and begins to tune it whilst the audience continues light, whispered conversations.
The complexity of Westerman’s studio sound is completely lifted in a live setting. After the second song and experiencing a track with the full band playing together, their musical chemistry becomes clear. Each member of the band is extremely well versed and locked into their dedicated instrument, making their stage presence feel slightly tense. With that being said, each member of the band is a true joy to watch.
As the set is played, the energy in the room begins to present itself. A number of individuals in the crowd start to sway or dance along, either by themselves or as part of smaller groups. After changing between his white telecaster and a black, Rickenbacker guitar, Westerman then brings out a third guitar – a small EKO. He starts to explain that the guitars are in various tunings and not simply for “vanity purposes”.
The anticipation that comes with waiting for his guitar to be tuned is simply like no other as we wait to see which track he’s gonna break into next. The crowd etiquette remains polite throughout but is now gaining momentum with sounds of appreciation at the end of each track played.
Midway into the set Westerman explains that he’s been working on a third record to follow his sophomore album, An Inbuilt Fault (2023) and begins to debut a new track from a new body of work – an unexpected but very welcome addition to the set.
The dynamism of his voice is a true joy to witness – the versatility of his vocals is on full display, seamlessly blending between tender delivery into more urgent and projected melodies. With each song he casts an outwards gaze over the audience and it’s clear to see the true passion and lived experience behind the words he’s singing.
After a quick break to take off his trench coat, Westerman introduces the rest of the band before breaking into ‘Confirmation’. The rising excitement confirms an appreciative audience who know what to expect – and they’re proven right.
Witnessing Westerman live turns out to be an unforgettable night filled with a perfect soundscape of swelling synths, wistful vocals and shimmering guitars – all glued together by the rhythm’s infectious beat and groove.
Recommended Tracks: The Line, Confirmation (SSBD) and Mother Song.
Photography by Emma Gibbon.