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  • By The Sea
  • Jo Mary & Friends
Harvest Sun @ District 10/11/15

There’s a lotta precipitation in the air tonight but even more anticipation; though it’s raining buckets, it seems every Tom, Dick and Harry have made their weary way to District to catch one of the Wirral’s most prodigious sons. Towards the end of a UK tour celebrating the release of third solo album, the blaringly poetic and personal West Kirby County Primary, BILL RYDER-JONES is playing on hallowed home turf, so it’s little wonder the show is sold-out.

There’s something inherently languid and bluesy about opening act JO MARY & FRIENDS, who jam it out to early-goers in true slacker style. A little garage, a lotta nonchalance, the young outfit keep their heads down and play it fast and cool. With the vast venue quickly filling up, BY THE SEA perform to a full house, setting the precedent with their dreamy combination of jangly, glimmering riffs and wistful, gentle melodies. Playing a set full of hazy diamonds from 2014’s celestial Endless Days, Crystal Sky, which Ryder-Jones co-produced, their post-punk-tinged tracks are rightfully well received.

Opening with a couple of strums from the mellifluous and melancholy A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, Bill and his band Nantes break into the gloriously fuzzy Catherine And Huskisson to lift the mood of the subdued crowd. No-one in the home crowd needs telling what the track is an ode to, those misty morning-afters on the cobbled edge of town, and a shout-a-long arrives at the instant where a neighbour near Parly is “fuckin’ fumin’”. It’s a precious Scouse musical moment when the retort rings out loud and clear under District’s cavernous rafters, and the man himself can’t help but grin.

The set largely draws upon songs from emotive, effervescent latest release with appearances from 2013’s A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, in the shape of There’s A World Between Us and He Took You In His Arms. These two earlier tracks dotted amongst the newer ones highlight the flourishes of lyrical and instrumental brilliance that permeate his growing back catalogue. Mumbling into his mic between songs, Ryder-Jones also introduces a track that’s “newer than the new album”; melodious and lilting, it’s a good hint at what’s to come from the Wirral polymath.

Wild Roses is dedicated to those affected by recent terror attacks in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris, and standing amidst gig-goers on a run-of-the-mill, soggy Saturday night, the tragedy of recent events hits home even further. With its heartrending chorus amplified by the quality of Ryder-Jones’ live band, the song seems a fitting tribute.

Nantes’ playing is sublime, their instrumentation honed to perfection and underpinned by understanding and familiarity. They leave temporarily part way through the set to allow Ryder-Jones to perform a couple of his quieter tracks solo. Put It Down Before You Break It is met with humorous hushes from a talkative audience before a special sing-along to the delicate, rasping number, almost louder than the singer himself.

The band rejoin him for the final half: latest single Two To Birkenhead is a highlight of a heavier kind, and towering closer Satellites follows suit, climaxing in cacophonous guitars. It further solidifies this gig as a warming gig, carried by charm and undeniable talent that lives up to expectations.

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