The opening notes to The Subways’ 2005 stunning debut album, Young For Eternity are those of a troubadouresque acoustic guitar. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that seven years (and three albums) later, Billy Lunn, the band’s singer/songwriter has decided to embark on an acoustic solo tour showcasing a stripped down (though not less exciting) version of The Subways’ fan favorites. It’s a nice coda to the recently wrapped tour in support of the band’s latest album Money And Celebrity but according to Billy, it’s also a good way to keep himself on his toes while writing album four.
Poking fun at himself for sporting a pale attempt at a “Movember stache”, Billy never stops smiling and interacting with his beloved fans while performing his set in the intimate space of the Brixton Jamm in London. He even invites two brave ladies on stage to sing the vocals of his missing band-mate Charlotte on two songs. And it’s obvious that the crowd is made of hard-core fans: they know every single word by heart and they’re charged enough for some jumping and screaming even if technically this isn’t a Subways’ gig with the typical infectious beats and riffs of post-grunge indie rock.
Tonight it’s just about a man with his acoustic guitar and his powerful voice gifting his audience with a special treat. In spite of the venue’s ridiculous curfew that allots him a mere half hour, Billy manages to squeeze in 11 songs, traveling back and forth throughout the band’s discography and he’s even able to include an extremely well executed cover of Oasis’ Supersonic. He tells how he first heard it on the radio when he was in the car with his mom and how that song made him want to learn guitar. This talented performer wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t shy away from revealing more endearing anecdotes when introducing his tunes. We learn that Mary is about his beloved mother and that his beautiful wife is the muse behind Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, whereas a dear friend who had just lost his job was the inspiration for We Don’t Need Money.
The audience drinks it all in and can’t help but sing along every tune with Billy leading their chants on I Wanna Hear What You’ve Got To Say, Shake Shake and Oh Yeah. Even when he goes mellow with No Goodbyes or warms up the crowd with Alright as his opener, Billy has everyone at his feet. But it’s Rock And Roll Queen, one of the band’s signature tunes, to drive everyone crazy. In spite of playing it unplugged, Billy screams “be my little rock and roll queen” as if he was shirtless and ready to dive as he’s accustomed to do at any regular Subways gig.
The upbeat At 1 AM wraps up the night in style and once off stage, Billy hangs out with his fans. He’s simply a genuine human being and I had the pleasure of experiencing it first hand. He gets me a drink, takes pictures with me and we chat about when I first saw The Subways while I was living in LA. He asks me to keep in touch and says he will hook me up for The Subways’ next tour. He’s the living proof that being a superstar doesn’t mean performing in sold out arenas and selling billions of copies. What really matters is the passion for the craft of music and human empathy. Trust me: Billy Lunn has plenty of both to offer.