On June 22, 2010 Ryan Star performed at Upstairs at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ryan is a Long Island, New York based singer/songwriter who achieved some notoriety and national attention when he appeared as a contestant on the reality series Rock Star: Supernova in 2006. Perhaps quite fortunately, Ryan did not win the competition, but the exposure brought him many new fans who were captured by his stellar performances of songs including “In The Air Tonight” and “Losing My Religion” as well as his original track “Back of Your Car.”
I have wanted to see Ryan Star perform live ever since then, so I was eager to catch his gig at World Cafe Live. After opening sets by Lion of Lido and Tim Williams, Ryan Star hit the stage at just past 8pm to a very full room and an extremely enthusiastic welcome from the crowd. Many of his fans are clearly quite dedicated and follow him from city to city, as I seemed to run into more people from New York in the crowd than from Philadelphia. Upstairs at World Cafe Live doesn’t have a lot of great options for standing viewing, but I was lucky to have secured a good spot by the side of the stage to enjoy the performance.
Ryan Star opened with “We Might Fall,” a beautiful song from his 2005 album Songs from the Eye of an Elephant. Live, his voice sounded just as captivating as it does on record and it was only a slight disappointment that this was the only song during the set he played keyboard. After that, he switched to acoustic guitar, with primarily only one support musician providing backing vocals and further instrumentation. The stripped down sound suited most of the tracks well, and indeed I liked these arrangements of “Brand New Day,” “Right Now,” and “Last Train Home” better than the more heavily instrumented, full-band sound of his last EP release Last Train Home. Ryan shines best when his emotive, raw voice is the absolute focus, and he has the stage presence and energy to require little more than that to captivate an audience. It is difficult to describe what other musicians he “sounds like,” although I tend to be reminded of both Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen when listening to Ryan’s music.
“Waiting for Love” followed, which he introduced with an amusing story about having written it originally for another performer, but deciding he liked the song too much to give it away. “Take a Ride With Me” was next, a rollicking number which benefitted from great audience participation. “Losing Your Memory,” another great song from Songs from the Eye of an Elephant, was haunting and had the crowd hushed-even if Ryan slipped on the opening lyrics a bit. “Breathe” and “You and Me” nearly finished out the set, and Ryan thanked the crowd for their great enthusiasm and energy through the night. For someone who had been made to look arrogant and egotistical on Rock Star: Supernova, Ryan Star proved to be anything but those things at the World Cafe Live. Before launching into his last number for the night, he invited everyone to please say hello and to get photos, autographs and “hugs” from him afterward. He finished with a terrific version of “Back of Your Car,” having performed for just over one hour.
I did briefly get to meet Ryan and thanked him for coming to Philadelphia. He was genuinely friendly and warm, asking my name, graciously signing my t-shirt, asking where I’d heard of him and encouraging me to come see him perform with a full band this August 3 at Irving Plaza in New York City. That show will be a release party for his upcoming full-length album 11:59. I do hope to be able to make the show, as Ryan’s music truly does come alive on stage, and he is a singer/songwriter who deserves to be seen and heard. For a small sample, watch the video I recorded below of two songs from the evening-and then please go out and buy tickets to one of Ryan’s concerts to support a great musician.
Video: “Losing Your Memory”
Video: “Back of Your Car”
* Ryan Star – Official Website
* Ryan Star – Facebook
* Personal experience