Bill Ryder Jones – Rough Trade, Bristol

Wednesday 7th November, 2018

I saw Bill in Bath not long ago, on a tour that was booked before his new album, Yawn, was released. This was an in store gig at Rough Trade to promote its release and as I love Bill’s music, wanted to get my hands on the album anyway and think Rough Trade’s set up is pretty ace, I figured why not. Handily the bus I would need to get to Trinity for the other gig of the evening went from a bus stop directly outside the shop and the timings were kind, so after initially thinking I wouldn’t be able to pull off 2 gigs in a night, it became possible.

Rough Trade opened in Bristol not long ago, but has quickly become an essential part of the music scene here. A live room at the back of a shop doesn’t sound enormously promising, but these Rough Trader’s know what they are doing and have built a good space.

I was nervous about being in my traditional spot at the front because Bill’s music is so intimate, almost painfully so at times, that I was worried about being quite so close to him. The stage is low and small, so you feel much closer to the artist than in most gig venues. Would being inches away, being able to make eye contact, be too much emotional for me? I did contemplate being at the back, but at less than 5 foot 1 with a stage that low, even in a small room, I couldn’t be sure I would see anything. Besides, I need to be able to divorce myself as much as I can from the knowledge other people are there sometimes. If not, I feed off their feelings too much, or become so socially awkward I can’t let go and enjoy the music.

So there I was, at Bill’s feet so to speak. He even asked me for the time at one point! With Bill you get the mix of self-deprecating humour and warmth with the heartfelt and beautifully sad music. He played a selection of tracks from Yawn, which I’d heard for the first time at the gig in Bath.  John and Time Will Be The Only Saviour both moistened my eyes, and I found myself biting my lip to prevent too many tears from flowing. It would have been embarrassing to have Bill look at me with mascara running down me face.

When I saw him in Bath I’d wanted to give him a hug and hadn’t had the courage to do so. So at the end of this set I told him that and asked if he wanted a cuddle. When artists create in and of their own pain, to share with others it often has a special beauty. I have always been deeply touched by the courage it takes to do that.

Bill is a heart on sleeve artist, who can play a mean guitar with a gorgeous voice that melts my heart. That he’s also damn funny, charismatic and cheeky are bonuses. He’s playing in Bristol again next Spring (lucky us) but it is a weekend I have my boy so I’m not sure I will be able to go. Do me a favour and get yourself a ticket to go on my behalf, you’ll have a great time.


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