Off the back of his fourth solo album Yawn, Bill Ryder-Jones returned to Brighton to treat us to a truly humble and intimate set of old and new favourites. Playing to an almost sold-out room at The Haunt, it was clear Bill had pulled in a number of his die-hard fans from the area. With an impressive back-catalogue and a packed-out room of people who were keen to listen to Bill’s every riff and word, it was bound to be a memorable night.
He and his band started off strong with two songs from Yawn, released in November of last year. “This is, for some reason, on the radio at the moment” is how Bill introduced ‘Don’t Be Scared, I Love You’, an unsuccessful attempt to play down the nostalgic beauty of this track. He then dipped in and out of his older albums, treating us to gems like ‘Wild Swans’ and ‘The Lemon Trees #3’.
From the moment Bill walked out on the stage, it was obvious he wasn’t there for small-talk with the crowd. Each word he uttered in-between tracks were genuinely things he wanted to say to his fans, rather than things he felt he had to say. It’s always refreshing to see an artist let the music speak for itself, rather than squeeze in awkward guitar tuning chat and mid-set ‘banter’. In typical Ryder-Jones fashion, he was acutely self-aware of the absence of his on-stage conversation. He jokingly blamed it on his attempt to drink less before shows (he very soon after proceeded to drink a few cups red wine), and for falling “flat”. This was naturally met with tipsy encouragement from the punters in the front row and beyond.
One of the standout moments of the set was when Bill’s band took a break and left Bill to his own devices. He then took four song requests from the audience, a notion which was very much welcomed. This was when it was obvious Bill was in good company. Old and new were excitedly hollered back at him. (Plus, potentially some The Coral numbers in there as well?!) This was when Bill seemed at his most laid back, when the music was at centre stage, and there was a happy and free exchange between him and his fans. There was a clear change in mood as he realised how happy his songs made everyone. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, right?