Review: Bill Ryder-Jones @ Gullivers, Manchester

Just before the mid-point of Bill Ryder-Jones gig at Gullivers in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, a man turns around to tell the lads behind him to stop talking.

This is the atmosphere that Bill, alone with his guitar, creates.

The intimacy of Elliot Smith or Jeff Buckley, or how you imagine it would have been when they played. 

An intimacy it feels rude for somebody to interrupt.

For Bill, the music seems less about performing for the crowd watching than it is about using music as an outlet for his personal experiences.

This is not to say that the packed crowd do not enjoy the music; if anything this introspection is why they are there.

But Bill’s presence on stage is the presence of an artist who doesn’t really want to be there, his face covered by his hair, self-consciously introducing the next song.

He admits that for him his music is a selfish thing, a recounting of his experiences and intimate moments in his life to those willing to listen.

For the first half of his set he plays his recent, quieter songs from West Kirby County Primary, along with the piano-based songs from his previous album A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart reworked for guitar.

The mood changes for the second half of the set, when his band comes on stage and it becomes a rock gig.

Although Two To Birkenhead, the lead single from his recently released album, stays in your head after you leave, you get the feeling that this is not the music Bill is intent on making as an artist.

That music for him is a release, one that he has never necessarily wanted to take a commercial form.

And much of which is probably better suited to a recorded format, than it is to the atmospheric mismash of a live set.

Although each song works as an individual part, as a whole it is disjointed.

From 20-minutes earlier, where one member of the audience was telling others to be quiet, set-closer Satellites ends as a landscape of noise.

For an audience every set is a journey.

Bill’s is one that, though at points enjoyable, is difficult to follow.

Image courtesy of Paul Hudson, with thanks.

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