On Tuesday evening, I was able to attend RY X’s show at the Rio. I had never heard of him till his PR team approached me about covering the show and I heard it was sold out so thought I’d check it out. It was indeed a full house when I got there and the audience was excited. I talked to a few people and found out it had been awhile since RY X had come to Vancouver and they were super excited to hear him.
The opening act was Charlie Cunnignham. When he walked on stage with his guitar, I thought perhaps he was a band member setting things up last minute – he had a sense of comfort on stage as well as a very laid back and humble presence. I enjoy seeing that in a performer – humility connects the audience and the performer together, ego just gets in the way. He then sat down and just introduced himself as Charlie and proceeded to start his set. It was just him and his guitar. He shared with us original songs of longing, pain, and joy. It reminded me of Roberta Flack’s song – Killing me Softly. The audience loved him and he commented on how lovely it was that the audience was focused on him with a very charming English accent. He entertained us with a style of music that I can only describe as flamenco meets indi. He mentioned that he will be returning to Vancouver on a solo tour and I will totally attend the show – I hope he brings a band along with him. I could totally hear him playing with a stand up bass, violin and maybe conga drums. His performance was very enjoyable and intimate.
After Charlie there was quite a bit of a wait but then RY X and his band entered the stage. I can only explain his music as being mystical. He likes to explore an open 7th chord progression which really creates a sense of longing and reflection. It was a unique marriage of technology and acoustic instruments. As I am currently exploring this medium, it was a pleasure to watch a skilled artist at work. I really liked that RY X understood the power of lights along with his music and used the lights to create different effects. Part of me wanted colour along with the light, but then I understood that it was just the sheer light that he was exploring to create an almost hypnotic effect along with the different vocal sounds that he was creating. I felt that the words almost played 2nd fiddle (so to speak) to the music so at times I was left wonderful what exactly the words were in his songs. Sometimes the words were extremely clear but sometimes I felt he was using only vowels to create sounds. Although I had trouble understanding his words, I must say he has a very good understanding of how to use his voice in a healthy way to create different emotions. I will keep his music in mind for my vocal students.
RY X along with playing several guitars, he also played two different keyboards to create different effects. He also used a full table of pedals to create different loops in his songs. He had a very skilled band to help support all of these different loops that he created live. I was checking out his instagram and he mentioned in a post that he was rehearsing 12 hours a day to prep for this tour. I can see why – this show would take a lot of prep to make sure that everything was just right. The only suggestion that I would make to RY X is that would have been nice if he had his keyboards and pedal board table facing the audience. I felt that we lost him when he turned to play the keyboards and I’m sure that the other side of the audience felt the same when he turned to the pedal board table. I also felt that it created a box separating him from his band so it seemed they were playing to him instead playing with him. Perhaps it was intentional but it almost creates the feeling that they weren’t need which was the complete opposite of what I believe he intended. I would also have loved to see the band’s faces more.
This is where my music teacher hat is going on. As musicians, we need to remember at the end of the day – we are only as good as our band. We need to reflect that in performances and give them the full honour they need as they work hard making us sound good. I don’t think RY X meant any disrespect at all by positioning his band that way. But having his band often in the dark, created a disconnect between them and the audience. This is just a little note to help create more of an inclusive show. But maybe it is because I love the jazz tradition – where the entire band is given equal light on stage and the soloist always introduces each of his/her/their band members. I would love to know who was playing with him. I wish RY X had shared more of himself with the audience; it took quite a few songs before he actually spoke to us. For me, when I go to a show – I want to experience the performer in a different way than I would by just listening to their music at home. Singing is story telling but I want to hear all the colours of the story – I want to feel like we hanging out and they are telling me their life in all sorts of different ways. I really believe it is important for singers to do this; it just brings so much to the performance and my experience as an audience member. Perhaps it is selfish of us but we just want to get to know our performers. We want to be swept away with the story that is being created on stage. I always tell my students, I can always listen to a recording but I can’t always see a performer live and so when I do – I want to enjoy it on every level possible.
Last but not least, I would recommend that his team inform the audience before the show starts that video and photos during the show aren’t allowed. It was very distracting during the opening numbers hearing a security guard loudly whispering to audience members to stop recording. A simple announcement would have avoided this.
It was definitely a mystical Tuesday evening – not quite one I was expecting but mystical never the less.