First gig of the year! What a way to kick things off for 2017.
After producing one of the albums of the year in 2016, Ry X comes home after spending time overseas, to play some shows in Sydney and Melbourne alongside his appearances at Falls Festival. Anticipation breeds expectation, and he delivered in every way imaginable, and then some.
Proceedings begin with local artist Lanks (who we later discover to be the cousin of Ry X). I had heard bits and pieces of him before tonight, but he was mostly unknown to me. Lanks showcases his groovy electronica, playing mostly the guitar alongside a drummer and some backing tracks. He did really well to play a set that peaked interest in a crowd who no doubt would have been with me in not being overly familiar with him. It was a good set – fun, upbeat and memorable – and definitely made me want to dig further into what is available of his catalogue (albeit not much). Also, I can finally say that I saw someone play a flute solo on an electronic song!
I have to admit, I was slightly nervous for Ry X coming on. We had just seen Lanks, who drew similarities from Ry X, but whose songs were more upbeat and got the crowd moving. To bring the crowd back down (especially on a Friday night) and expect them to sit back and watch Ry X do his mellow, solemn, slow thing would not have been easy.
Nevertheless, after a alternate ‘Dawn’ intro, Ry X launches into ‘Shortline’ and completely dismisses any fear I had. ‘Shortline’ was simply brilliant. The caliber of the music and the maturity of sound actually caught me by surprise, and I honestly had forgotten that Ry X is essentially an unknown, playing tonight to a crowd of no more than 150. For such a timid, shy and seemingly reserved man, Ry X demands your attention when he sings. That lush falsetto that peppers his 2016 release, ‘Dawn’, was perfect tonight.
As Ry X moves through his set, the tracks are all familiar from his debut album, however the arrangements are completely new, and there wasn’t a single song played tonight that was ripped straight from the record. Each song is meticulously dissected for live performance, making sure that each note sung and every chord played is there for a reason, and there is absolutely no wasted space. Ry X and his band play each song with a sincerity and purpose that you would expect from seasoned musicians who have been in the game for years and years. It was really refreshing to see a band so involved and connected to the music. Throughout the night Ry X continues to thank the crowd for sharing the space and being present with him, but that was a always going to be a given considering how transfixing his set was.
Finishing with a stripped back version of ‘Only’, Ry X completes a night that exceeded all my expectations. I was expecting to see perhaps a solo show, or maybe Ry X with an accompaniment on keyboard or even a computer, to try and create what he so brilliantly did on his record. What I got was an artist and his band who absolutely nailed the feel and emotion of the songs in a way that I didn’t think would be possible, completely captivating the audience and delivering a truly memorable gig. The only negative of tonight would have been the fact that Ry X didn’t keep playing long into the weekend – I could have stayed forever.
Ry X @ Newtown Social Club, Newtown. Friday, January 6th, 2017.