Harvest Sun @ Arts Club 11/3/16

Tonight there is a subdued air of celebration, as if the crowd are welcoming back one of their own who has set out to prove himself to the outside world and returned validated. BILL RYDER-JONES has, of course, been touring his various works for a good portion of his life, however, since the release of second LP West Kirby County Primary last year, there has been a sense of Ryder-Jones being recognised as a genuinely great artist outside of his home city, making this return seem all the more poignant.

Bill’s characteristically demure on-stage demeanour is strangely juxtaposed to the shouts of “Go ‘ed Bill” emanating from some parts of a crowd that greet him with frenzy when he comes on stage, and this is a dynamic that lasts throughout most of the set. As off-putting as this sometimes is, it does little to detract from the quality on stage; and with his four-piece band to back him, Ryder-Jones commands the room from start to finish. He is at his most impressive when embracing his heavier urges and the 90s garage-inflected Satellites is a testament to this. The dichotomous pairing of blistering refrains and restrained, gravelly vocal delivery seems to epitomise his new approach to songwriting, and it is hard to keep the spine from tingling when the band are really in full flow.

For those familiar with the more subtle, piano-based melancholia of 2014’s A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, there is a welcome reprieve mid-set when the four other members disappear, leaving Ryder-Jones alone on the stage. Several beautiful solo renditions follow, of which Christina That’s The Saddest Thing is the highlight. It becomes clear that he is a performer who can captivate an audience without any assistance, even if he appears slightly uncomfortable whilst doing so.

The band now re-appear to finish what they started, and single Two To Birkenhead is a triumphant and joyous summation of what has been a pretty special night. Although this show has had all the warm feeling of a homecoming, it has been much more than that. Perhaps it has even been more simple than that: an incredibly talented artist riding high on the crest of an album that is so far undoubtedly his greatest achievement. Go ‘ed Bill.

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