Getintothis’ Edward Feery reports on a spellbinding evening as Ryley Walker brings a full-band show to Arts Club
With a jangling, intricate guitar style and a handful of records steeped in the psychedelic Britfolk of the late 1960s, Ryley Walker seems made for Liverpool.
Local lads DUSST open the evening with a dose of sunny feelgood psychedelia, eschewing their normal groove-laden sound for chiming, shimmering acoustic guitars and dashes of gently warbling synths. There are a couple of moments where things threaten to come unstuck, but the melodies are strong enough to carry through the wobbles. The effect is a bit more Haight-Ashbury than their usual sound, but it works just right.
Health&Beauty, by contrast, reveal themselves to be a fine math-rock ensemble; loud, fast, hard-edged and angular – a promising sign, as they’re also Walker’s backing band for the evening. The quieter moments display a sparse, jazzy loveliness which bandleader Brian Sulpizio builds into resonant alt-rock climaxes, ably supported by bassist Andrew Scott Young and drummer Ryan Jewell.
As he takes the stage, Walker looks very different from his Philharmonic Music Room gig last year, sporting a new haircut that’s almost preppy in its shortness. Likewise, played live his songs diverge wildly from their dainty, dead-60s recorded forms – as is clear from the moment the opening instrumental climax dissolves into an electrified take on Roundabout.
Songs are teased out, rearranged and melded into each other, the period-psych prettiness of the records replaced by full-on wig-outs – Walker preferring to embody the spirit of the music over the letter. At points the experience becomes transcendental, the audience spellbound as the music crescendos and diminishes around them.
In-between songs, Walker misnames Bold Street as “Butt Street”, eulogises the “fucked-up” denizens of Concert Square and inadvertently inspires a chant of “fuck the Tories!” (“What did I do?!” he asks, bewildered). “It’s a divine honour to be in Liverpool,” he tells the room during his encore.
Judging by the roar of the crowd, Liverpool considers Ryley Walker pretty nearly divine himself.
Photos by Getintothis’ Lucy McLachlan