On a night when there’s so much going on in our city with numerous well known indie, rock and pop bands playing across town, it’s heartening to find a sold out crowd at New Century Hall to witness one of the UK’s finest songwriters perform his biggest gig to date. After listening to Bill Ryder Jones’ sublime new album ‘Iechyd Da’ released earlier this year (see our album review here), it’s easy to see why this Wirral songsmith has captured the hearts of many a Manc music fan. His take on melancholic love songs are tinged with such wit and epic musical arrangements, it’s enough to make even the hardest hearts weep. Not that his songs ever veer too much into the depths of despair, there’s always an upliftingly delicate melody propelling the tune along, or a lingering lyric of optimism pushing through the clouds.

After an amazing set by support band Gintis, Bill takes to the stage seeming surprised at the size of the audience, along with the enthusiastic and warm reception. It feels like some sort of triumph to be bringing his delicately beautiful songs to a Saturday night crowd. The gig is a seated affair which suits the gentle atmosphere generated by Bill’s songs perfectly, without dampening the excitement or enjoyment of the crowd in any way. It’s the closest thing to a party I’ve witnessed at a Bill Ryder Jones gig, with shouts of “we love you Bill” and “go on lad” ringing out in between songs. The crowd sing along with tunes such as ‘Christinha’ yet also manage to keep a revered silence during the quieter, more reflective songs such as ‘A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart’ and ‘Daniel’. Bill seems genuinely moved by the overwhelming response to each tune, thanking the promoters Now Wave for first putting him on all those years ago in Gullivers “from that to this, just blows my mind” he exclaims. 

Bill always enjoys a bit of a natter with the audience in between tunes, making sure we’re all alright, and acknowledging the politely positive heckles from the audience, well it is Saturday after all, the beers are flowing, especially in some sections of the crowd, with one person cheering Bill on like they’re supporting their  footy team from the terraces, each song the equivalent of a well deserved free kick or corner. Even Andy Burnham who is  a renowned music fan is here, his presence in the crowd acknowledged by Bill “It’s not often you get the mayor turning up to your gig” he states, to a response of mostly cheers with some grumbles, laughed off by Bill in his deadpan humour declaring that he’ll be discussing “politics and religion” next. 

His band consisting of cellist, two other guitarists, bassist, keyboard player and drummer, create a sound which moves from delicately poised ballads to subtle folk rock, soaring to dizzy heights on the likes of  ‘If Tomorrow Starts Without Me’ and ‘Two To Birkenhead’. Ending with the epic ‘This Can’t Go On’, which finds the crowd waving arms aloft and singing along with every word, it’s a fitting ending to a brilliant set. There’s no encore, well how would you follow that? This gig feels like some sort of triumph for the underdog, a musical FA Cup upset with our beered-up friend stood by the wall waving the equivalent of a BRJ scarf aloft with pride. An astounding gig by one of the finest songwriters to emerge from the North West in years.


From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.