Ryley Walker greets The Haunt with ‘Hey Brighton! F*CK Donald Trump!’ to cheers and applause, instantly striking up an easy rapport with this Sunday crowd who clearly need no persuasion as to his talent and person.
Opening with evident crowd favourite ‘The Halfwit in Me’, Walker and his band orbit around each song, and the impression given is that they understand one another deeply, and prefer to experiment freely until the time is right to fall into the next song. ‘The Roundabout’ in particular, from his latest album Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, gets a great response from an older crowd that, despite staying relatively still throughout, revel in Walker’s lengthy free-improvisation to introduce several songs. The ensemble are talented, accomplished musicians, fusing intricate individual freestyles delivered with captivating intensity with a riding jazz rhythm, and the presence of the double-bass adds rich, rounded low ends and an air of authenticity. Walker’s position at stage left breaks down the usual artist-with-backing-band feel, emphasising the importance of each individual instrument.
A strongly bearded man with an equally strong scent of parma violets about him remarks that “This guy’s f*cking brilliant. I mean, the records are great, really great, but they don’t do justice to seeing him play.” The crowd are keen to find out the name of the drummer (Frank Rosaly), and when it transpires that somebody ‘prefers’ the bassist, an introduction to each member is backed with raucous applause and cheers, and becomes something of a running joke throughout.
Walker is funny, likeable, engaging and interesting, an accomplished guitarist and songwriter with soul-baring lyrics and beautiful indie-folk melodies to boot. It is intimate, introspective music in a suitably intimate environment.
Words by Kai Newton