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We were gifted tickets to tonight’s gig being held in Sage Two – the more intimate stage within the realms of the Sage. The gig in question is Bill Ryder Jones, formerly of The Coral who with the band had success in the noughties, before his departure from the band in 2008.

Bill was the lead guitarist and co-songwriter rising to fame at such a young age, his talents seemed diluted within a band who at the time dominated the indie scene.

It’s been a long road for the man hailing from West Kirby, Merseyside. With well documented mental health issues and addictions which Ryder Jones has straightforwardly talked about. The expectant audience of thirty-somethings applauds as their man takes to a darkly lit stage, brandishing a fender guitar, closely followed by four other band members.

Ryder – Jones emerges into the spotlight, acknowledges by simply saying “hi, I’m Bill”.

The stage comes alive as he begins to play the opening chords of a track from his latest album Yawn. It’s a hard one to categorise in its style, it’s like a distorted guitar dreamscape with secret poetry that only has clarity after the fourth listen. To see live ‘Yawn’ beams a purer form, with elements of Mogwai and the lyrical honesty of Adrian Moffat.

Bill’s voice, low like a modern day crooner, his lyrics are laden with blunt honesty. His chords are light, melodic. All combined they take up residence within your ears. There is an edginess to Ryder Jones and as the evening goes he grows. It might have been helped by a half bottle of tequila at hand though, it didn’t affect his musicianship.  It may have helped him face a crowd that I believe he would rather be standing amongst. He explains quite candidly how he has been in lockdown in a studio leading up to this tour, this being only his third date back on the road.

This is a concert of two halves –  one point he asks his band politely to leave the stage, noting they will be back. Bill is stripped of all that surrounds him, leaving himself totally vulnerability, with guitar in one hand tequila in the other he beckons his beloved fans for requests, handling the hecklers like a comedian.   Ryder Jones was so astute to the audience, even asking about train times at one point.  The sharp wit was pretty exciting, there was an element of danger and unknowing with the gig, which makes each live performance completley different.  Towards the end, the band came back and we were all witness to a group who genuinely loved playing with one another.  You could almost picture the band in a studio jamming.

Stand out tracks – ‘Don’t Worry, I Love You’ which is beautifully written, the crowd go-er ‘Two Tickets To Birkenhead’ and ‘Wild Swan’ – with Ryder Jones explaining that he was compelled to write after hearing the passing of a friends mother. 

A banter-ful tequila pause and a Seinfeld moment, the track ‘Seabirds’ was powerfully performed.  The emotions rode high, the sadness and elation mixed with the giggles in between tracks.

What is so particular about Bill Ryder Jones is the honestly, the night, the performance along with the physical need to create and play music.  Ryder Jones wears his heart on his sleeve while playing and it was a pleasure to watch.

His performance and stories of why and how Yawn became, made me look again to his the album and listen more intently. Bill Ryder Jones May be one of life’s trouble souls, he may have his demons, but he handles it with a humorous wit and total honesty that is written by his pen and plucked from his guitar.

Bill Ryder Jones will be touring Yawn until the end of February.

Reviewer – Carmichael – THE SLABCITY SHOW

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