Bill Ryder-Jones at Room 2, Glasgow, March 12 2024

“You’ve listened to my music,” said Bill Ryder-Jones. “You know who I am.”

We have. We do.

The co-founder and former guitarist with The Coral, he left that band in 2008, suffering a breakdown, the result of childhood trauma. He is 40 years old. He has on-going problems with agoraphobia. He writes beautiful songs full of love and hurt.

New album Iechyd Da – “good health” in Welsh – is a break-up record certain to feature on best-of-2024 lists. A highly produced work, the result of many cloistered studio hours, it is lush with strings, brass and even a school choir.

To see him in concert, therefore, is to witness an act of personal and artistic courage. A man who is sometimes frightened to leave the house standing on a stage and playing music of such sophistication and pain that you do wonder how – psychologically and technically – he’s able to get up there and perform it.

“It’s emotional,” he said. “It’s very hard to do this.” And there was at times a frailty in his vocal, in particular on an impromptu solo reading of Seabirds, all gossamer fingerpicking and careworn croon. But vulnerability should not be mistaken for weakness. Take the moment during A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart pt. 3 when most of the six-piece band dropped out and Ryder-Jones sang the line “But oh how I loved you” accompanied only by piano. His tenderness and control would be the envy of any Vegas balladeer.

The rich orchestral textures of the album were suggested by Evelyn Halls on mournful cello and Liam Power’s keening slide. Nat Laurence’s twelve-string brought a quicksilver chime to If Tomorrow Starts Without Me and Nothing To Be Done. Ryder-Jones played guitar and sang with his eyes closed, or half-closed, smiling to himself here and there, self-soothed by the lullaby of his own melodies.

Best of all was the closing This Can’t Go On, a torch-song from rock-bottom, built around a string-sample poised between euphoria and despair. The track references Echo and the Bunnymen’s The Killing Moon, and this live version had such desperate swagger that it was not diminished by the comparison.

So, yes, we know who Bill Ryder-Jones is: a brilliant artist who sings his wounds but is neither defeated nor defined by them.

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