An intriguing evening of music with Bill Ryder-Jones and Saint Saviour was something I did not want to miss, but it required a mad dash from the Everton game to make sure I got there for kick off number two of the day. There was a feature on Bill in the City programme put together by photographer Kevin Cummins who was also in attendance tonight (Joy Division, The Smiths, the Mondays, the Manics, and a who’s who of some of the greatest musicians these shores and elsewhere have produced feature in his extensive portfolio). Ryder-Jones and Saint Saviour have been swapping headline slots on this tour so I wasn’t sure who was on when. Fortunately I was there in time to catch Becky Jones’s outfit comprising a young up and coming guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones, Jack Prince on drums, two backing singers and a quartet of the Manchester Camerata. It is understandable that Saint Saviour has been gaining great reviews and comparisons with Kate Bush, especially given the latter’s recent resurgence, but I consider her voice to better and am thankful for the lack of Kate kookiness. Jones (Becky) sounded note perfect this evening. Her voice is a simply beautiful and it soared in the acoustically superior environs of The Deaf Institute. Her set was one of dreamy deliverance, Sad Kid, James, and the wonderful recent single Let It Go were highlights and as the performance reached a crescendo with the stunning Reasons; Saint Saviour, the band and the Camerata produced a gloriously aching and heart-stopping swoon. When the “you’s” kicked in…wow.Whilst Becky Jones’s voice is a magnificent thing in itself, the way she works the mic accentuates its wonderful range. It was a mesmerising hour or so in her company and kudos to the audience for their reverential attention.
After the break Bill and Jack returned augmented by bass and keyboards as the atmosphere changed to one of a Scouse nature, such was the impressive showing of match going Evertonians at the venue. This was acknowledged by Ryder- Jones at the start of the evening as the opening notes of the magnificent A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart chimed in. Bill struggled initially to find his voice as the result of ‘flu but by the end of the song it had been unearthed as the two opening tracks of Ryder-Jones’s second album, Hanging Song and There’s A World Between Us were given wings. His stories of love and heartbreak have echoes of the lo-fidelity fragility of Grandaddy, left turns that surprise and melodies that lilt in the air. This sometimes sits incongruously with his mid-song meanderings that are highly comedic. Americana must have been seeping into my head lately because the one person I can think of who is similar in his almost stand-up between song chat is Howe Gelb from the mighty Giant Sand, both can be very funny indeed.(Incidentally, Saint Saviour’s Americana-like comparison had Fuck’s Pardon my French entering our heads. Not for the voices but the songs, and well worth a listen if only for Bestest Friend). An example of Bill ‘slayin’ ‘em’ occurred following a beautiful rendition of Lemon Trees #3 when the band left the stage. “Have they gone?” he asked. The audience responded affirmatively. “They’re all cunts. Only in it for the money…and the glamour”. The contemplative By Morning and the sparse swoon of Seabirds were beautifully delivered with between song support coming from the tour posse, who actually all seemed to be sniffing and coughing as a result of the tour ailment.
(Note Bill’s brown trabs, no doubt in salute to Roberto Martinez’s brown shoes)
The band returned as Ryder-Jones deconstructed the oeuvre of the Beatles with examples, to much merriment. He Took You in his Arms saw Bill work his guitar masterfully no doubt warming up for the fabulous Catherine and Huskisson named after the two L8 streets, which was all Mick Head-like tempo switches and guitar shifts. This song and Wild Roses which was also given a welcome workout tonight bode well for a brilliant new album, as do anomalies such as the wondrous and haunting and oh so sad 1991, which wasn’t played but you have to check the dreamlike video out on youtube. A special song.
Anthony and Owen always reminds me of a blustery day on the Wirral coast via its evocative strum and tonight we were only shaken out of our reverie by a storming Wlid Swans, guitar to the fore and Jack Prince as always in perfect harmony. And so, a jewel of a night came to an end as the frosty glisten of the Manchester streets urged us home. Bill always delivers and tonight was no different. The double bill has been a great idea and tonight it meant we even forgot about the injustice of the referee’s decision to award City a penalty for a couple of hours. Fuck Andre Marriner.
Liverpool, you are in for a treat. The tour comes to the Kazimier next Saturday. It’s Christmas. Treat yourself.