Written By | Nathan Washington
Melbourne jazz 8-piece act WVR BVBY (pronounced War Baby) played their first gig of 2019 at the Howler with attendees excited to hear last year’s masterful debut LP performed live in the buzzing band room. Supported by Harmony Byrne & The Heartbreakers and followed by a DJ set from Ryan Berkeley to carry on the music after the main act has concluded, fans were in for a night of incredible performances and groovy tunes.
First up, Harmony Byrne takes the stage, joined by a rotating cast of musicians known as The Heartbreakers, with backing vocalists, cello, trombone and slide guitar all making guest appearances throughout her hour-long set. Starting off the performance on a moody, mellow note and captivating the audience with her unique voice, fans sit by the front of the stage relaxing and swaying along to the laid back guitar and beautiful harmonies from Byrne and her backing singers.
The mood is complete by a giant projection of graphics behind the band members, matching the music well and creating an extra sense of atmosphere in the venue. As the set progresses, a more powerful sound emerges, and soon the band is rocking out to a more psych-influenced sound, delivering powerful riffs and a couple of killer lead guitar solos to accompany a dominant vocal performance. Harmony’s voice is incredibly versatile, moving seamlessly from a gently sung ballad to a belting delivery and back again, often in the same song. The set ends on a high note, with killer performances from all musicians on a funky final track, leaving the audience with high expectations for the main event of the night.
WVR BVBY emerge onto stage only 20 minutes later, ready to put on a masterclass for fans, and after greeting the audience the band launches into a barrage of jazz. A rhythm section comprised of a foundational bass, smooth guitar, mellow keys and incredibly tight drumming set the groove for the track before the rest of the band joins in, filling Howler Melbourne with bold melodies and leading into a powerful jazz flute solo. This is followed by a display of technical drumming, showcasing incredible control of dynamics, before the band launches into another gorgeous wall of sound, getting fans moving wildly at the front of the stage. The combination of the rapidly changing neon lights and graphical projections behind the band combine to make a visual spectacle, quickly transitioning to suit the feel of the music.
Mood shifts quickly on stage, moving between bold and dynamic brass features to calmer and more soulful arrangements, highlighting soloists over smooth rhythm interludes. All of the performers seemed to be in their element playing to a full room, congratulating each other after difficult solos and nailing their parts without seemingly any fault across the entire set, made more impressive by the complexity of the arrangements.
The set continued with gorgeous horn swells accompanied by sparkling keys, the audience mesmerised and swaying as the music washes over them. With a final tempo change, the band works up towards a finale, flute and saxophone combining with drummer to drive a high-energy tempo while smooth guitar plucking builds up intensity into a whole-band crescendo, blaring horn section filling the room with another gorgeous melody. The song drawed to a conclusion, drawing wild applause for the intricate set, and the band departed the stage, leaving the audience plenty to remember the night by.
WVR BVBY more than lived up to high expectations of many attendees, with another masterful live performance cementing their place in the jazz community as an act to look out for in the coming years. Harmony Byrne & The Heartbreakers opened the show emphatically, setting the mood for the rest of the night perfectly, and WVR BVBY followed with a night of incredibly tight performances and wonderful solos, doing their self-titled debut LP more than justice live.