Support: Leaders Of Men
Ryan Bingham? I’ll admit that if you are not familiar with country then you may not be acquainted with Mr Bingham. I'm not a country music fan in particular. I don't dislike it but it just never appealed that much and Ryan is the only country artist that I actually listen to. That may be because the lines between country and rock have blurred so much that I’m not sure at times what constitutes country these days. In simple terms Ryan is a singer songwriter of the highest calibre no matter what the genre.
In truth he is an artist I knew nothing of until a few years ago…in fact it was while I sat watching ER with the Mrs that a song start playing during a particular tense scene. As the song got louder I realised I had already fell for the gravelly voice I heard. A quick search on the Internet pointed me towards Ryan and the song in question, Southside Of Heaven. Due to the age in which we live in I was able to download the song instantly. Within the week I had bought every album on CD, all without moving from the couch. Gotta love technology…enabling laziness on a grand scale in the 21st century.
Fast forward a few years to tonight and here was my first opportunity to see Mr Bingham live, and what better venue than Whelan’s. A venue that has kept its character while moving with the times while still being able to attract great artists. The capacity may only be 400ish but it is that intimacy that makes the atmosphere. Admittedly sometimes these type of gigs can be spoiled by people at the bar. People who forget where they are and carry on their loud conversations while an acoustic song is being played up on stage a matter of yards away from them. Tonight that didn’t happen…everyone seemed extremely respectful and Whelan’s was focused on the man on stage. Except that is for those people that insist on taking a picture of themselves with their back to the artist, with said artist right behind them. OK maybe that can be fun at times but a little disrespectful when the artist in question is a yard away from you. Maybe it's just me but these 'Facebook Photos' are beginning to piss me off. However I am getting grumpy as I near the big 4.0...so yes it may just be me.
First up tonight were Dublin band, Leaders Of Men. Now I always like to give support bands the benefit of the doubt especially local bands…but I didn’t really expect much when they wandered on stage looking half pissed or stoned or both. I’ll hold my hands up though and say that after their set finished 30 minutes later I was surprisingly moved to look em up on iTunes. I very much enjoyed their songs and the singer, Brian Ashe (thanks Google) surprised with some excellent vocals. The only criticism would be that I’m not sure they were the best fit as support act for Bingham’s crowd but I for one (and the Mrs) liked them a lot.
Touring in support of his new album Tomorrowland, Ryan and his band came on stage at 9.30 prompt (another thing I love about Whelan’s is there is no messing, artists have to be on stage on time and leave on time…Axl Rose wouldn’t wanna be playing here anytime soon). Opening up with some great guitar they went straight into Sunshine followed by Western Shore, a cracking way to start the gig.
I didn’t manage to get hold of one of the printed set lists tonight so if anyone that did wants to fill in the setlist for me then please click on the link at the bottom. I have no idea in which order the songs were played. I can remember the first two and the encore and that’s it. My memory was never that good…and is getting worse. Highlights were many though including the wonderful Hard Times, Dylan’s Hard Rain (complete with broken guitar string), Flower Bomb (inspired by Banksy of all people) and the encore…and what an encore. Pretty much my ideal Ryan Bingham encore in fact. Wandering back on stage by himself Ryan played exquisite versions of Hallelujah from Junky Star and then The Weary Kind (yes that song…the Golden Globe, Emmy and a freaking Oscar song) before the band came back on and played the track that started it all for me, Southside of Heaven.
Ryan left us as we started with Sunshine and we were done. A storming ninety minute set.
Leave any preconceptions you may have about country music behind and get your arse to Belfast tonight or anywhere in the UK next week. At a mere €16.50 (cheaper in real money!) this is a gig you can not afford to miss.
Ticket: November 9th 2012
Ticket Price: €16.50