Music review: Bill Ryder-Jones, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Flourishing as a singer-songwriter of considerable craft since leaving The Coral, Bill Ryder-Jones on stage belies his unfair reputation for gloomy introspection. Though he’s not an obvious frontman, he’s grimly funny and determined to engage the audience, even wading into the crowd towards the end of his set to quell a confrontation between two of them.

Bill Ryder-Jones on stage belies his reputation for gloomy introspection
Bill Ryder-Jones on stage belies his reputation for gloomy introspection

Bill Ryder-Jones, Summerhall, Edinburgh ****

Backed by his four-piece band, opener There’s Something On Your Mind makes full use of the quartet, beginning as languid folk-pop before erupting into a maelstrom of guitars. It’s a beautiful wave of sound that signals what is to come. Quietly anthemic, Don’t Be Scared, I Love You takes its naggingly persistent refrain to an almighty crescendo, while the meandering Wild Swans wrings its elegiac pathos dry before yet another storming conclusion.

There’s a raw lack of affectation to Ryder-Jones’ often rambling spoken interludes. And his admission of making a bad taste joke before delivering Daniel the previous night has the band worriedly exchanging glances. Yet this beguilingly poignant treatment of parental loss, about his dead older brother, achingly eclipses its tragic inspiration. A solo section, in which Ryder-Jones asks for requests, affords an insight into his feelings towards his back catalogue, a highlight the stripped-back, crystalline melody of By Morning I.

Dismissing regressive laddishness with wit and a nod to Rizo in Grease 2, There Are Worse Things I Could Do was followed by a fragile cover of Lightships’ Two Lines. And he closed with the chugging Satellites, building to a Pixies-like rocking climax.


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