Ryan Bingham has made quite a name for himself. In many ways he is one of the leading figures of the americana music genre. After initially making a splash with his major label debut album Mescalito and opening for the Drive-By Truckers he started to build a fan base. After a couple of solid, well received albums his career shifted in a big way when he was involved in the film Crazy Heart starring Jeff Bridges. Bingham was not only in the movie but wrote the theme song “The Weary Kind” that won him Golden Globe, Academy, Critic’s Choice and a Grammy Awards. This shifted Bingham into a whole new level of success.
His show at The Granada was supporting his first album release after Crazy Heart, Tomorrowland. The fan base would skew more country than it previously had for the Texas artist because of his role in the movie about a washed up country star. His music does come off as far more personal and honest than mainstream country music, allowing him to also capture the indie and hipster crowds. The crowd diversity would be impressive at The Granada in Lawrence as the venue was nearly filled. The room would be tight quarters for the audience and the temperature in the room continued to build to the point where you could see sweat drip from people’s hairlines all around. The standard smell of a recently burned joint was occasionally accompanied on this night by the distinct smell of a fresh wad of Copenhagen.
Opening band Honeyhoney would be presented as a three piece outfit that was a great match as an opener on the Bingham tour. They seemed to be heavily influenced by the new indie-americana that continues to gain momentum but are just a bit too twangy to fit in with them. The songs and musicianship were good and they played well written tunes but skewed a little too toward the CMT side of the genre for me, primarily just because of the female lead singer’s voice. The drummer would take turns playing his acoustic guitar from behind the kit while the lead singer Suzanne Santo would play banjo and fiddle while singing, amping up the country side of things even more. They did have a hard enough sound to push a country stomp mentality out of the crowd that increased their popularity with the rambunctious attendees.
Ryan Bingham came out to a rock star welcome and tore into “Guess Who’s Knockin'” right away proving that he had edge with the chorus of “Guess who’s knockin’ on the door, it is me mother fucker, I’m knockin’ on the door.” The Tomorrowland opener was followed with the lead single from the album “Heart of Rhythm” that perfectly sums up Bingham’s “country that rocks” sound. The setlist would be a great mix of rockers and slower songs proving that the troubadour knows how to put together a set.
Ryan Bingham would be sporting his black cowboy hat and a button-up western shirt and be leading a band that was every bit, if not more, as diverse as the audience was. His bearded guitarist looked like he could have fit in with any hipster-indie rock band and his black bass player had a full afro, looking like he was plucked straight out of The Roots. His violin player could have been taken straight off of the farm and could probably get the senior citizens discount at Denny’s and his drummer wouldn’t have been too out of place in a New York punk band. The combined music by the visual misfits was tight though.
Bingham would send his band backstage while he played two solo acoustic songs right in middle of his 90 plus minute set and he would tackle “Hallelujah” and a brand new song “As I Do My Dancing” that were very well received. When the band returned it would take them a bit to build the energy back up as they trotted through a couple medium to slower paced songs in “Bluebird” and “Don’t Wait For Me.” It wasn’t until halfway through the great wandering song “Southside of Heaven” that they would retain the momentum they had earlier.
The usual live highlight “Bread and Water” with its piercing slide guitar fell a little flat at this show. Honeyhoney was invited back up to the stage during the song and the seven musicians on stage made the song a little erratic and muddy and not quite as good as it could have been. Bingham’s slide didn’t seem to be as loud as it usually is during the solos as well.
The encore would once again be just Bingham with his harmonica and acoustic guitar and he would satisfy the repeated requests by playing his award winning song “The Weary Kind.” He would respectfully remove his cowboy hat for the crowd during his three song encore that also contained “Too Deep To Fill” and “Ever Wonder Why” but was clearly highlighted by the song that brought him so much success, “The Weary Kind.”
Ryan Bingham setlist at The Granada in Lawrence, KS 3/15/13
- Guess Who’s Knockin’
- Heart of Rhythm
- Country Roads
- Tell My Mother I Miss Her So
- Beg For Broken Legs
- Western Shore
- Day Is Done
- Hallelujah (solo acoustic)
- As I Do My Dancing (solo acoustic)
- Don’t Wait For Me
- Southside of Heaven
- Bread and Water
- The Weary Kind (solo acoustic)
- Too Deep To Fill (solo acoustic)
- Ever Wonder Why (solo acoustic)