Bill Ryder-Jones


Bill Ryder-Jones (contractually obliged to say ‘formally of The Coral’ here – indeed he is playing a guitar with a strap adorned with their name) released a brilliant album, Yawn, last year, probably his best solo effort to date. Not content with that, he also released an entirely piano based version of the album entitled Yawny Yawn earlier this year, and it made the yearning, delicate songs even better than they were on the original version. Stripped of most instrumentation, you’re forced to focus on Jones’ often heartbreaking, often very funny lyrics, his fragile voice full of vulnerability as he regales you with tales of his family, of love lost, of basically being human. It’s this stripped back album that he’s here at Band on the Wall tonight to showcase, the set up just a piano and a guitar, which Jones will swap between throughout.

These are sad songs, there’s no getting round it, but bloody hell Jones is hilarious. He comes on to the epic Jurassic Park theme tune, hands raised aloft in mock triumph, and sits at his piano only to tell us that he’d fucked up the timing on that entrance and should probably do it again. He explains that he’s just playing the piano and guitar tonight, songs from his past three albums, and he’ll also take requests, “so get thinking about that”, and also that he’s a bit ill. He then begins with the absolutely stunning ‘John’, an ode to his dead father that is just beautiful, the lines “John I’m holding onto you, the parts that no one else knew/John I’m holding onto you, the only thing I’ve known is true/Is that I miss you more than they do” prickling my tear ducts not for the last time this evening, the audience silent and absolutely rapt. He looks up to the balcony and addresses Auntie Katie and Uncle Tom who are here tonight, thanking them for inviting him round every Christmas, “but still haven’t been invited on the Portuguese holiday, hey?”, which makes the songs he sings about his family even more potent when they come round.

None more so than when he switches to guitar to play ‘Daniel’ from West Kirby County Primary, a song about his brother who died when he was just 9 when he fell from a cliff on a family holiday. During the devastating track, he steals a glance up at the family on the balcony and nods to them, and I absolutely lose it, that kind of uncontrollable crying where tears cascade from your eyes with no limits, such a fleeting, human moment, the kind that these types of intimate event are made for, it was beautiful. Before ‘Daniel’, he plays a new song dedicated to his new love, telling us that he’s “uncharacteristically chipper because I’ve met someone”, before letting us know that “it’s ok though, I’ll balance it out with Daniel after”; both deliver in spades.

Request wise, Jones plays us ‘Seabirds’, ‘A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart Part II’ (‘ah, but which part do you want?’ he responds) and ‘Two To Birkenhead’, and I think what’s most heartening is that none in the crowd shouts for any Coral songs – Jones is now an established solo artist, and it’s nice to see that people are here for him and his sad laments rather than the Coral’s brand of jangly guitar pop. He teases us with intros to both ‘This Charming Man’ (‘I could do it if I wanted’) and The La’s ‘There She Goes’, but stops both after a few bars – it’s not a karaoke session after all, despite the jovial atmosphere, and let’s be honest, no one wants to hear songs from a right wing fascist sympathiser on a night like tonight. Finishing on ‘Lemon Trees #3’ and an astonishing ‘Wild Roses’, I honestly can’t think of a nicer way to spend a Sunday evening than in the company of this man, baring his soul to a stunned audience whilst throwing in an element of stand up comedy too, it’s just been so uplifting and special, a brilliant evening all round.

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