Bill Ryder-Jones – Chapel Arts, Bath

Wednesday 20th September, 2018

A rainy Wednesday night, wind blowing a hoolie. I was not in the mood to go out, let alone as far as Bath, but  Bill Ryder Jones was tempting me out into the night.

I’ve only been to Bath for a gig once before, and never at Chapel Arts. What a smashing venue! Centrally located, great acoustics, lovely open main space, great lighting, I would very happily travel to see bands here again in the future.

Support was from Our Girl, who I had seen supporting Marika Hackman last year. Then they were a perfect fit then and they were again tonight. I Really Like It was the best track (or at least the only one I can remember the name of!) and their debut album is out, it’s worth picking up.

I last saw Bill as part of Richard Hawley’s 3 Ring Circus in Sheffield a couple of years ago and have wanted to see him again ever since. That was a pretty special night and one where Bill had to follow Richard Hawley and John Grant, which is no mean feat. That he managed it with aplomb (and a jelly snake) is why I was at this gig. There is always nervousness to going back, to seeing someone again, especially for me when they were an unknown quantity the first time. Would they be as good?

Bill was better than good and I hadn’t misremembered anything. The charisma, self-deprecating humour, beautiful voice and fragility were all there. He opened with some new songs, from an album that’s not yet out, and they were almost my favourites. Any man who can extrapolate an entire song of their own from There Are Worse Things I Could Do from Grease has got to be alright hasn’t he? Now obviously Grease 2 has the better songs (yes I’m in the 2 camp, Bill) but seeing as he picked the best one from Grease, I’ll let him off. Time Will Be The Only Saviour was quite emotional, so Bill telling us to”get your feelings ready” as he began Sea Birds was unnecessary. Mine had already started to be peeled from me with the previous track.

This gig was a 3 act play. The opening section was all new material, played with a full band, followed by Bill acoustic and alone, then more well-known songs back with the full band. A little bit of everything, showing off all his talents. I’m really not sure which Bill I preferred you know, so I’m glad I got all the versions. With the band he could open up his guitar full throttle and that’s joyous. I may say I’m over boys with guitars, but you know what, I’m just over mediocre boys with guitars. When you are as good as Bill Ryder-Jones I shall continue to pay attention. On his own he could show off his voice, singing songs of loss, love and fragile emotions. Sometimes he does both and that is almost too much. He joked about being nervous, trying not to have a nervous breakdown on stage, but you can feel how much of his heart and soul he puts into his music. It’s almost a touch too much, too intimate at times, being so close to someone you don’t know opening themselves up to pain like that. I wanted to give him a cuddle! Perhaps I should have after the gig.

This was the gig I needed right now, one where it was safe to let some emotions out. I left this gig a little lighter. Music as safety valve is an under rated thing. Cheers Bill for helping calm life down for a couple of hours.

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