“I’ll set the timer, I’m only paid for an hour and ten minutes.” was the comical, yet thematic opener of Bill Ryder-Jones’ set at The Crescent. Embarking on a solo acoustic tour, Ryder-Jones brought to the rainy evening the melancholic and introspective performance which the audience both expected and longed for. The intimate seated session was effortlessly captivating from the very beginning – something the support act, Wasterman, brilliantly catalysed. Wasterman’s voice can only be described as haunting, with a definite rawness to it. The guitar and lead vocals were synonymous to the timeless sounds of artists like Iron and Wine and Keaton Henson. Despite playing a rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Kathy’s Song’ due to worries that nobody knew his music, I truly believe that covers in his set will soon be a thing of the past. There was a certain familiarity within his own songs, including ‘Mother’s Song’ and ‘Harvard’. Wasterman undoubtedly has a firm place assigned for him within the indie-folk music scene.
As Ryder-Jones entered the stage, there was an absolute stillness, broken upon his first humorous line as he questioned “Do you like awkward silences?”. The gig was kicked off with ‘Tell Me You Don’t Love Me Watching’, a song from his latest album West Kirby County Primary. The lyric “Look at the things that you wear and tell me you don’t love me watching,” was explained not to be a reflection on his own views, but rather a reflection on a societal obsession on females. Ryder-Jones then embarked on a predominately audience-requested set, something which proved to be insightful as it allowed both the artist’s and audience’s preferences to transpire.
‘Lemon Trees’ was the first requested song, an apparent audience favourite with its captivating ballad-esque manner. Following were a few tracks chosen by Ryder-Jones, including ‘Christina That’s The Saddest Thing’ and ‘John’, a song dedicated to his father. The atmosphere was quite different to a typical gig; there was an intensity that meant the lyrics felt somewhat immediate and personal. An old song from The Coral (Ryder-Jones’ previous band) was suggested by an audience member – the reply was simply “what a silly, silly question!”. ‘Seabirds’ continued the night, another from West Country Kirby Primary, leading on to the song ‘Daniel’. There was pure and raw emotion from Ryder-Jones throughout ‘Daniel’, which was later explained to be a song for his departed brother, and fundamentally a portrayal of loss. Despite the seriousness of many pieces, the night was generally very up-beat. Ryder-Jones on numerous occasions lead into a song, before admitting that his memory wouldn’t allow him to play it – much to the amusement of the crowd. The highly anticipated ‘Wild Roses’ was one of the last songs of the night, a song played with assurance. It was confessed to have originally written for another musician, but remained with Ryder-Jones as he felt it was always intended for himself.
The closing song – a cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division – was sincerely dedicated to all of those affected by the Manchester and London terror attacks. Applause from the audience was refused due to fears of appearing “crass”, a small act which meant a lot to those who had attended the gig. The evening was one that I’ll be measuring subsequent shows by; its quiet hilarity, affability and sentimentality will be hard to match. An expected fifth album is sure to continue Ryder-Jones’ trademark emotionality, with a continued exploration of himself through his music.
By Rebecca Higginbottom