On Tuesday evening Leeds was bathed in the debauched remains of the previous weekend. The city littered in decaying cigarettes was not ready just yet to pull the hair of the dog that bit it. It was ready however to start a new week with a low key yet remarkable performance by the brilliant Bill Ryder-Jones at The Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen.
The Belgrave was a perfect choice for Bill Ryder-Jones and his band. The venue was intimate but still accessible, a lot like his songs.
Watching Bill perform live in this setting was like a friend at a open mic night down your local. His open and calm stage presence gave him an accommodating edge to his performance. Making his own vunberabilty and music more susceptible to connecting with the audience.
The music he performed for us was much in debt structurally to the distorted days of nineties as it is to the melodies of a long arm of Liverpudlian acts that have preceded him. Although this didn’t hinder him in the slightest as he and his band side stepped sloppy reproduction in favour of a masterclass in taking from the past to make something new.
Songs like ‘Wild Roses’ and ‘Daniel’ were performed with such strong musicianship, raw vunberabilty, precision and care.
‘Two to Birkenhead’ and ‘Catherine and Huskisson’ on the other hand were a different kind of beast. Gentle beasts that rung familiar sonically but were flowing with lawless energy and meaningful melody. Both of which compelled the audience to surrender to their tipsy Pavement/Pixies direction. A direction that fits within Bills sometimes sleepy but nothing is wrong with being a dreamer (I’m not the only one) vocal delivery perfectly.
It’s this sincerity and raw inhabitation he has of his songs that carries them to a higher plain further above most songwriters can go or will go. You can tell that Bill spends a long time crafting a tune till he feels it is ready to put on record then go on to perform. This level of emotion, vulnerable lyrics and genuine hard work that he puts into his own craft and songwriting is remarkable and it’s even more so to watch that process that place in front of you live, warts ‘n’ all.
His material may ring familiar, but like an old friend ringing you to talk on the other end of the phone.