Ryan Bingham at The House of Blues, Anaheim :: Live Music Review

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Ryan Bingham
March 2, 2013
The House of Blues, Anaheim

Anyone who regularly visits Lyriquediscorde most likely knows that Ryan Bingham is one of my most favorite artists, and that back in September when I got the chance to see Ryan play live I became even more of a fan of Ryan and his music. His music hits me in a very deep and raw place, his songs snaking inside me and completely moving me in a way that only music ever can. Seeing Ryan live increases the intensity that the music touches and impacts me, and as much as I loved the first time seeing him play, last night exceeded my already high expectations and in all honesty shook me up and got to me so intensely that it actually lit up something in me that feels like the spark of change and motivation that I have been needing for a long time.

I would usually take this space to write a brief reaction to the opening act/acts of any artist’s show I am reviewing, but the opening band, Honeyhoney, was so mind-blowing amazing that I will just give a quick shout out here, and post a separate review of their performance following this. I will say that Ryan Bingham seems to have a talent of inviting amazing bands to open up for him, and has exceptional musical taste as both his opening acts, and music played before the show, can attest to. I am more than grateful to have made the acquaintance of Honeyhoney, whose music I know I will be spinning, and waxing poetic and prosaic about, in the days that follow.

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When Ryan came on-stage he walked out in his unassuming and humble way that appears to be part of who he is. But, in barely the time it takes to blink, or take an intake of breath, the band and Ryan exploded sonically with the intense and electrically charged Guess Who’s Knockin’. This song hits hard and fast, with an almost feral fever that powered through the room, vibrating the floors and the barrier wall that separated where I stood and where the band was erupting. It was impossible not to explode as well, and my body was moving before my mind could instruct it to, the music was already pulling me forward. This power of Guess Who’s Knockin‘ is just that – powerful and empowering – and there is something so satisfying, and cathartic, about singing the word fuck. I do not know why it is for me, as I know it is just a word, and that I am not one to be overly conservative or restrictive in my own use of language, but perhaps it is the reputation the word has, and the way that it still carries with it the weight of being a taboo, often its usage frowned upon, or sometimes even forbidden, makes it feel that much more loaded when we get to scream-sing it (or maybe that’s just me).

Guess Who’s Knockin’ led right into, without even a moment’s pause, the equally and aggressively rocking, yet not as angry, Heart of Rhythm, with Ryan singing “C’mon baby, let me turn you on” which he and his band already had, and then some. Maybe it was the proximity to the stage, the flimsy barrier I was hanging on to, or the hard wood floors, but the music vibrated all around me and into me, sending electric chills across my skin and pulsing through my insides, making my heart race and my breath catch. Oh my stars good live music is sometimes better than sex.

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I would like to take a moment to focus some much deserved attention on Ryan Bingham’s band. When I saw Ryan live, back in September, I was impressed by his band, but this time around they blew me completely away. They shook the house down, brought to life the rhythm and the blues, and created a cacophony of sound that shattered me in the best kind of way. All three of his band members were amazing. Isaac Carpenter on drums and Shawn Davis on bass were unstoppable and unbelievably incredible, causing the ripples and waves of beat, the twang and the rip-roaring rock, they slayed me completely. Evan Weatherford, on lead guitar, was mesmerizing to watch and did magic with the strings, both he and Ryan are fucking amazing guitarists.

My absolute favorite Ryan Bingham song, and the one that breaks my heart into tiny pieces, is Never Far Behind. As much as I love the song in my everyday playlist listening reality, experienced live this song rips right through me and tears me apart. I closed my eyes and let it the song wash over me last night, singing each line along with Ryan, trying desperately to hold back the tears. This song means so much to me, and gets to me on such a personal level, bringing up the way it feels for me to have grown-up, and survived, an abusive home life as a child, and how it feels to live through the suicide of someone I loved deeply. I go through life trying to “out run” all the pain caused by my past and the aftermath of all those experiences, but the shadows still hang over me, and no matter how fast I move, how much I change things in my life, or how much I chase after change, they are never far behind. I want to thank Ryan for this song, for the way that hearing it always makes me feel so less alone, and how it helps me breathe and heal a little bit more with each listen. I do not think I can articulate just how much it means to me. Last night this song broke me apart, but also helped me see some things so much more clearer, and for that I am so grateful.

Too Deep To Fill was also emotionally jarring to me, in that its good to feel even when the feelings hurt kind of way. It was so beautifully performed last night, awe-inspiring beautiful.

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I was delighted to hear so many songs off of the Mescalito album, my second favorite album after Tomorrowland. There were songs sung that I had never heard played live, including the seductively hot as hell Latin infused tune, Boracho Station (seriously, be still my heart), the uplifting and shake your body inducing Sunrise, and  A Long Way From Georgia which is song storytelling at its finest. Ryan also played fan favorite, and yelled out request, Bread and Water, a song I love to hear done live especially for the city shout-outs, and the passionate reactions the sung mentions garner from the audience – plus I love the way the song makes me want to clap and stomp along.

Ryan closed the show with Ever Wonder Why, a song tailor made for closing a show with, especially as it winds down and becomes a conversation with the audience, a musical knock down of the invisible fourth wall that brings the audience in so close, in such a genuine way. I dug this number when I first heard it live back in September, but this time around I felt it deeper and fell head over heels for it. This song did bring tears to my eyes that I tried, and failed, to blink back. In some ways the song made me feel worn out, and exhausted, from my own mistakes, my own part of heartbreaks, my own travels and long roads I have traversed upon, and my heart felt overwhelmed with the desire to go home. I love music that moves me like this, that comes right at that moment when I need some kind of answer, or reassurance, or just a musical embrace of “it is all going to be okay” and that “these ain’t sad songs so don’t take ’em wrong, just haven’t been home in awhile“, which were just the sentiments I needed to hear.

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If you have the chance to see Ryan Bingham live during this tour I can not recommend it enough – go and see him – you will not be sorry you did. To see if he is coming to play near you check in here for tour dates and venues. If you cannot make it to see him this time, or if he is not going to be in or near your town this time around, I encourage you to pick up one of his albums right here – they are amazing listens, all of them; my personal favorites are Tomorrowland (which you can pick up here on vinyl, too) and Mescalito.

I am one to often say that music has, and continues, to save my life, and standing there last night at the House of Blues in Anaheim, there was some musical life saving going on. Thank you to Ryan Bingham, and his ass-kicking amazing band, for the music last night, and for giving me the musical jolt to the heart that I needed.