For many it’s been quite an understated return for Bill Ryder-Jones towards the back end of 2018, with his new album Yawn enchanting fans and critics alike, without making too much of a splash on the wider airwaves.
However, this did nothing to quell our excitement for a pre-Christmas trip to merseyside to see the wirral singer-songwriter perform live on home turf within the wonderful surroundings of Liverpool’s Grand Central Hall – a venue debatably underused for this kind of show.
We arrive through the door at the end of the hall’s picturesque garden to be pleasantly surprised a pint of Guiness is available for £3.80 – the kind of almost affordable gig (well, drinking) experience that is simply no longer on offer in even the dingy venues of Manchester and London.
Far more importantly, however, we get there just in time to witness the support set from The Duke Spirit’s frontwoman Leila Moss – who showcases material from her immersive new solo record with consummate ease. She marries an epic sound with a smooth and relaxed approach in a way that is hugely impressive for an artist out on the road for the first time alone.
It’s a fantastic pre-cursor to the textured sounds of Ryder-Jones, who arrives after an admirably quick changeover, armed with a giant goblet of red wine you would expect to be large enough to keep him oiled for the entire night.
Once again, moving away from the boozing towards the music, though, it’s a set that really does feel like the most heartwarming of returns to the city. Bill’s confidence in the new record is demonstrated by a setlist that kicks off with ‘There are Worse Things I Could Do’ and ‘And Then There’s You’ – both have the room silently encapsulated throughout, but the resulting applause makes their appreciation very clear indeed.
The focus then shifts towards 2013’s A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart, the record that went some way for many to establishing Ryder-Jones as a solo artist with an infinite amount to offer in the proceeding years.
Those who made that assumption would have felt largely proved right when the flawless West Kirkby County Primary followed a couple of years ago. It was a record that combined some of his most personal songwriting to date with a master class in fuzzed-up dynamics – almost cultivating a Pixies-esque exterior in the process.
It’s the big ones from this record that inevitably get the most bombastic reaction. ‘Daniel’ and ‘Wild Roses’ soar into the ether of the venue, before a sort of extended encore really brings out the anthemic side of Bill’s work, with ‘Satellites’ and ‘Two to Birkenhead’ closing proceedings. Overall, it’s been a joyous occasion for the heart and soul to take in.