As Bill Ryder-Jones faces a hero’s hometown welcome, Getintothis’ Del Pike is there to witness the event in all its glory.
It’s too easy to call Bill Ryder-Jones a Merseyside hero, but the sentiment is unavoidable when faced with the crowd who filled the Arts Club tonight. Claustrophobic doesn’t come close but the warmth that emanated from the slowly swaying sea of bodies was pure joy. Everyone was here because they love a bit of Bill.
Trudy have their fans too and thus received much praise in their short support slot. After a set that crumbled a little at The Buyers Club earlier this year, the Liverpool three piece were much tighter tonight and couldn’t fail to hold interest. Vocalist/guitarist Oliver Taylor has more charm and stage presence than anyone could wish for, and the band have a tight bunch of songs under their belt that they describe as 50s mutant pop. Each song begins with a mysterious, echoey retro vibe and then descends into a hard edged style that is undeniably influenced by The Libertines.
Taylor’s staccato vocals are at times indecipherable but they make for a wonderful sound. Trudy are a rigid unit, all sharing harmonies and pulling together for maximum power. In quieter moments, Taylor’s strained voice and distant guitar has shadows of King Krule and even The XX, but these moments are brief as each song descends into sublime chaos. In the studio, songs like Baby I’m Blue sound much softer than when let loose on stage. Daydream and Melanie provided high points in the set and it was all over too soon. With a little spit and polish, Trudy could well be a Liverpool favourite in a very short time.
Chatting to folk in the break it becomes clear that a Bill Ryder-Jones gig is un-missable and most people are clocking up their Bill gigs and comparing different performances. The room fills quickly and although jubilant, the audience are relatively sedate, intent on hanging onto his every word.
Bill is on fine form and is at once glad to be here, bantering from the offset with faces in the crowd before launching into Catherine and Huskisson; a name check to the city streets and a brilliant single to start the set. Frenetic cries of “Baby baby baby” suggest an upbeat performance tonight but it is a mixed bag of fragile ballads and bursts of irresistible energy that weave in and out of the session. Let’s Get Away From Here establishes that the set will be dominated by tracks from the West Kirby County Primary album, and this pleases the majority of fans tonight including a fair few teenage girls swooning in the middle.
What is most refreshing about Bill’s approach is the complete break away from the style of The Coral, unlike Guy Garvey whose solo album last year could easily have been any Elbow album. Bill has created a completely new musical persona and in some ways attracted a much different audience. His breaking point delivery is always beautiful, even in its most raw moments and places him perfectly alongside his Domino label-mates Julia Holter and Martin Courtney in that singer songwriter with that special something category.
Bill’s band, that includes By the Sea’s Liam Power on guitar, leave for a while to allow a short quartet of solo songs including By Morning I from A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart. There are some glimmering moments of Michael Head in Bill’s voice during the song – Is it too much to suggest he may almost be the Michael Head of his generation? The poetry is certainly there, the delivery just less ravaged.The similarity is emphasised by the pair’s beautiful duet at Islington’s Union Chapel a couple of years back.
Put it Down Before You Break It may be the stand-out moment of the evening, but the serenity of the moment is but a memory as the band re-appear and dive headlong into a surprisingly raucous reading of Two Singles To Birkenhead, the obvious crowd pleaser and bringer of new fans this evening. Relatively new song Liam Said It Better is unsurprisingly dedicated to band mate Liam Power and Bill admits it is his By the Sea rip-off. His under the influence sequence also includes a great cover of a track by Glasgow’s Lightships, a band who Bill has toured with and clearly respects.
The set concludes with three favourites, the painfully perfect Daniel, Wild Roses and Satellites, with its bombastic opening and rollercoaster narrative. There’s no encore and Bill exits the stage at exactly the right point leaving behind a perfect set list with absolutely no filler. Everyone finds a face they recognise and we all agree that it was indeed a brilliant gig. The boy can do no wrong and the audience file out 100% satisfied.
Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson.