Jess And The Bandits are finally here to play a long-awaited re-scheduled show for an expectant Bristol crowd.

After having to postpone last year’s tour in September due to the damaging effects of Hurricane Harvey, the Tunnels has filled up nicely with people eager to see Jess And The Bandits perform.

First up is Laura Oakes, who fans of the band will know from singing on the Christmas EP Always Christmas Eve. Having appeared on The Voice in series 2, Laura is now well on the way to establishing herself as one of Britain’s great country artists. Tonight she shows Bristol why.

Starting off with “Glitter” from her new EP Nashville Stole Your Girl, Laura sings and plays acoustic guitar backed with cahon and percussion. Her amazing voice shows straight away and enthralls the crowd. It’s a song with great, sometimes funny, lyrics, and a catchy tune which has people singing along.

The set is slowed down with “Lazy” before the title track of the EP gets an airing. Oakes tells us it is a song about her love of country music, which she has had since the age of 14. “Better In Blue Jeans” is a more up-tempo song about remembering where you are from. There then follows a sublime choice of cover, in Elton John’s “Rocket Man”. Played in a slow, country style, it is a beautiful rendition of a great song, which again has the crowd singing. The too-short set of 6 songs is finished with the up-tempo “Dreamin’”, a single from 2016 which certainly leaves the audience dreaming of more.

The Tunnels is now well primed for the main act, having patiently waited since September they are more than ready for this. The first thing you notice as the band take to the stage is that it is a completely new band to the one Jess had with her on her last visit to Bristol. And to the one that recorded the album. Why? – Who knows. Some of the crowd are confused, though some are new fans so they had not seen them before anyway. The question is forgotten though, as Jess takes to the stage to loud cheers and applause.

Starting with the ever-popular “My Name Is Trouble”, the crowd are straight in to singing mode, and this continues with “You Can’t Stop Me”, both tracks from the superb debut album Here We Go Again. Jess then tells the crowd how sorry she is about having had to postpone the tour, and thanks them for their support and patience.

The new album Smoke And Mirrors is soon featured, with the opening track “I’m Not Going Home”, apparently one of Jess’s favourite tracks. The old and new songs are shared around well, with “Love like That” being followed by new songs “Kiss Me Quiet” and “World Still Round”. It is a good mix of tempo too, with the set list obviously having been well constructed. The popular “Nitty Gritty” gets a welcome play, after Jess spots two young children in the front row sporting the appropriate T-Shirts. 

We are then treated to the first of three covers tonight with “Mamma Told Me Not To Come”. It’s a great version, with Jess sharing the singing with guitarist Luke. We then get a stream of tracks from the new album , including “Kings of Summer”, “The Bullet”, “White Lies”, “Sister” and “Start a War”. The latter of which turns out to be a favourite with its slow rock/country feel and a great drum beat to it. “Smoke and Mirrors”, the title track of the new album, is played on acoustic guitar with some great harmonies from the band, giving it a lovely feel.

This is all blown away though by an amazing cover (not on the set list) which Jess felt compelled to add in. It was first heard on a live session on the great Terry Wogan’s show on Radio 2, and Jess credits him with having played a big part in the band’s success. “Wichita Lineman” is a fantastic song anyway, and Jess does it great credit, starting off singing with just keys for accompaniment, before the band later join in. The main set is ended with “Ready Set”, getting the crowd singing along again to finish off.

Of course the encore follows; Starting with the soulful “Fault Lines” and ending with “Single Tonight” – an ironic choice for a valentines day gig, but it goes down well and sends the crowd home sated.

Photos by Becky O’Grady

Jess And The Bandits
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Laura Oakes
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The Tunnels
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Event Date: 14-FEB-2018