Photography: John Johnson /


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  • By The Sea
  • Matt Maltese
Harvest Sun @ Floral Pavilion 26/11/16

Has Bill stitched us up tonight? He’s brought us over to New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion, looking out onto the lashing waves of the Mersey on one of the coldest nights of the year, where there’s still frost on the ground. It had better be worth it. Although, I think we know it will.

The conference room is well carpeted and spotlessly clean – a little too corporate for this kind of event, perhaps, but once the light goes down and MATT MALTESE emerges we’re beginning to lose ourselves a little. Maltese is a revelation as it happens. His songs are as cinematic as their delivery is theatrical. There is no denying the flourishes of Rufus Wainwright but the lyrical content is way more off the wall. Sat alone at his keyboard, Maltese’s songs of the city are bittersweet in the extreme, and tell of 21st century romances in the strangest of places, Tesco being one of them. Perhaps the highlight of his set is As The Earth Caves In, a love story that involves Putin and Theresa May, snuggling up on the couch on the night the red button is pressed. It’s a perfect mix of politics and twisted romance. Maltese has been working in the studio with BILL RYDER-JONES, but any similarities end there; he has a unique sound and lyrics to match.

BY THE SEA provide perfect support tonight, the fellow Wirralites headed, conveniently, by Liam Power of Bill’s band. They are a great band in fairness and are satisfying for anyone who left their heart in 1986, even if they weren’t born then. Power’s vocals sound eerily like Lloyd Cole at times and the songs are cast from the same mould. Jangly guitars give way to darker times in the middle section and Cornucopia rounds up the short set with pure Bunnymen flourishes. Power may be overshadowed by Bill Ryder-Jones, but potentially he has talent in spades that could one day draw even.

Our headliner enters the scene about 15 minutes earlier than planned so everyone can get home safe. Phew! New Brighton does feel a million miles from civilisation tonight so we are grateful. Nice touch Bill.

He’s not well, this is clear, but he’s not letting that get in the way. We’re only a few songs in and already the slightly moody, subdued singer we saw at the Arts Club has been replaced by a consummate pro. The set has a structure, the banter between songs is hilarious and the band are as tight as the proverbial camel’s arse in a sand storm.

True to his word, Bill treats his own “Leisure Peninsula” to a strong opening run that includes He Took You In His Arms (rapturous applause), Let’s Get Away From Here and There’s A World Between Us. He’s got a great back catalogue already and it’s never sounded so good. Although Let’s Get Away… is from the last album, (he’s gone off track already).

His solo spot opens with By The Morning I, which sounds uncannily like Strands era Michael Head as Bill’s vocals are a little fragile tonight. It’s a beautiful moment, closely followed by pared down versions of Seabirds and Put It Down (possibly the highlights of the night). Baby, a new song is dedicated to Bill’s Mum who’s not here tonight, and he makes sure we don’t think the song is actually about her. Admittedly, that might be a bit weird.

The expected chatting in the crowd during these quieter moments is becoming annoying and people are shushing them down “thanks for that” says Bill to “the shushers”.

As promised, the second half is a run through the best bits of West Kirkby County Primary, the album that won us all over last year and transformed Bill from “Him from The Coral” to a bona fide artist in his own right. Two To Birkenhead is always going to be a crowd pleaser and Catharine And Huskisson is the only track that can better it tonight.

The album run is interrupted by another new song, There Are Worse Things. There certainly are, this is a brilliant song that could be next year’s Two To Birkenhead, riffing on The Velvet’s Sweet Jane – it’s perfect.

The show ends with a wonderfully predictable trio of Daniel, Wild Roses and Satellites. If it’s all about pleasing the crowd, then Bill just scored a blinder and off we all go in time for the last train. Thanks for that Bill.

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