October 31st 2016 will have seemed like an ordinary Halloween celebration for the vast majority of people in Liverpool. For those crammed into the city’s O2 Academy, however, it was the end of an era.
That night, on the day that Augustines played their final-ever show, the swashbuckling trio of William McCarthy, Eric Sanderson and Rob Allen brought down the curtain on their six-year career to leave the band’s loyal supporters heartbroken at their decision to split.
On Tuesday 2nd May, six months after McCarthy’s last visit to Merseyside, the only things broken on a night of pure joy were the guitar strings thanks to the New Yorker’s passionate strumming.
With a set that lasted around two hours 15 minutes, McCarthy’s triumphant return to Liverpool was, to put it simply, sensational and, while he may not have sold out the city’s Arts Club, the 150-strong crowd that assembled at the Seel Street-based venue wouldn’t have dreamed of being anywhere else.
And McCarthy knew it. Boy, did he know it.
Oozing a perfect blend of wit, charm and a humbleness often lacking in the frontmen of current and/or past bands doing the circuit, McCarthy brought the ruckus – in more ways than one – as he belted out songs from a back catalogue stretching all the way to his beginnings as a musician.
Old classics from his Pela and Augustines days – coupled with some extraordrinarily hilarious covers that saw McCarthy marry the likes of Neil Young’s dulcet tones with George Michael hit single ‘Faith’ – went down a storm, and gave witness to the sheer prowess of McCarthy’s artistic flair.
In true scouser fashion, the mass of Liverpudlians gave as good as they got as the quips and jokes were batted back and forth between McCarthy and his devoted fans, while McCarthy’s own tales of self-reflection and humorous behind-the-scenes revelations drew laughs and applause in equal measure.
It was McCarthy’s tunes, however, that many had come to see, and the Irish-American songwriter did not disappoint. His impressive set of lungs still able to project a stunning voice into all corners of the building, coupled with his unrelenting showmanship and expert guitar playing, left all present marvelling at the man affectionally known as ‘Billeh’.
It may be a source of frustration for his fanbase that McCarthy doesn’t get the recognition he deserves within the wider music community, but McCarthy’s raw passion, devotion to music and modesty sets him apart from the crowd. It’s what endears him to those who have followed his work for years and years, and offers an insight into why people watch him up and down the country, and across the globe.
There may be more successful artists out there. There may be more widely known bands out there. There may be other gifted frontmen out there. McCarthy, though, knows what he has – a dedicated following of supporters, his trusted set of guitars and harmonicas, and a desire to make the world a better place through his music.
Sometimes that’s all that’s required to help mend those broken hearts from six months ago, and beyond.
Power Rating: 10/10