|Why can't we be friends?|
Singer/songwriter Ryan Thomas Becker, backed with a three-piece band billed as The Last Joke, was second up on the night of endless rock at Dada.
We both liked his material immediately. Guitar driven southern rock with strong lyrics; he came on like a young, harder-rockin' Tom Waits from Texas. He's clearly a skilled guitar player and he uses his strong, yodeling voice to great advantage. The band was solid too, and knew just when to hold back and when to unleash the sonic wall of deep-fried rock.
RTB's music showed a wide array of influences merged into one Southern pot. A howling, yelping "Seek Fire, Anime Kids" came off like punk band Titus Andronicus, while the slower, grinding "Tom Petty Summer" (one of many covers of friends of RTB's that night) sounded more like Smog. Or he would chant story-based lyrics, like the Hold Steady, to a churning guitar riff and pounding drums. Different pace, but the same blistering intensity.
Both of us independently noted that RTB has a very interesting, engaging stage persona. Between the songs he named the covers or told brief stories about them, but he mumbled rapidly and slurred his words so much, his hands flying all Tourettic from his mouth to over his head to his guitar, that we understood little of what he was saying. Judging by his snarling, gruff singing, one might think he would be surly or brusque in person, but he actually came off as affable and pleasant, thanking the audience several times for their interest with a wide smile.
At one point, after the audience did not respond with appreciable enthusiasm to something he said, he chuckled to himself and said only, "Boo-urns?" That sly, self-effacing sort of comment is what made his stage persona, while somewhat enigmatic, also charming.
During slower songs, the intensity of RTB's vocals if anything increased, as he rolled his eyes, yodeled, stomped his feet, and twisted his mouth into grins and grimaces like a Pentecostal preacher possessed by the spirit, or a snake handler going into religious spasmatic throes, only RTB was handling not reptiles but twisting, spitting songs --- not as deadly as rattlesnakes but just as mesmerizing.
|Sometimes he hit the mike with his nose.|
Near the end of the set, the ballad "No We Can't Be Friends" was sung alternately by RTB and the rhythm guitarist, whose dry hoarse voice was somewhat reminiscent of Trey Johnson of Sorta's. RTB leaped and stomped so much at this point that he dropped to his back, where he played a bit more from that prone position before rising. As RTB exhorted the crowd to sing the bar-room chorus of "No, we can't be friends," R remarked that this would be the Google Plus theme song. (Topical humor!)
The closer, "He'll Have To Go," the Jim Reeves/Elvis number, was putty in RTB's hands as he made the honky tonk weeper his own, and left many folks wanting more.
In sum: Rousing original songs that stood easily with choice covers, excellent musicianship, very high energy, strong stage charisma. N thought it was the best set of the show by far. Later in the night, listing the acts for friends who weren't there, whenever we mentioned RTB, there was a very positive response by all who had heard him. R bought the CD. Ryan Thomas Becker, highly recommended.