Ryan Lee / "Always a River" CD Release Show
The Phoenix Theater
November 14, 2016
Review and photo's by: Patrick Dunn
Many people I encounter these days appear to be trudging through their existence numb, checked-out, basically on autopilot. It seems to be getting more uncommon to have even a casual conversation with someone that doesn’t come across as guarded and ultimately fake. That is why I was so surprised and thrilled to experience a unique and unusually personal performance by Midwest Singer/Songwriter, Ryan Lee at the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis, MN, November 14th.
A tranquil mood was set by images of water crashing against a rocky shoreline on a video screen, which provided just enough light to see that only a microphone stand and table were occupying the trendy neighborhood stage. With many seats now occupied, Lee vulnerably stepped barefoot into view with a well broken-in acoustic guitar strapped over his shoulder. He addressed fans, friends and family, “Thank you so much for coming, there’s so much going on out there that I’m so grateful you took this time to escape with me for a bit.” He proceeded to explain how this CD release show for “Always a River” was his artistic expression of an interesting chapter in his life.
Before diving into the first track “Abandon”, Lee picked up a binder and began to read, “February, I cannot begin to imagine the pain he must be going through …” This effective storytelling approach took place before each song and brought new clarity to this collection of music I’d been studying for several days prior. I salute anyone with the courage to perform solo and unplugged in front of an audience. Lee seemed confident and up for the challenge sounding in good voice right off the bat. I believe his emotional connection to this music enabled him to organically produce a very dynamic product in a natural and unforced fashion. At times, he strummed aggressively projecting cries of struggle and uncertainty, but could quickly shift gears and become soft voiced when expressing loving thoughts about his partner. Lyrically, he exercises full creative freedom with a storytelling approach that is not strictly dependent on rhyming phrases - refreshing from the norm.
The authentic nature of this show made it exceptional. A well thought out combination of spoken word and musical performance proved to be a winning formula that held the crowd’s undivided attention from start to finish. Although each piece was important to the overall story, there was something especially heartfelt about “Dear Libra” that made it a standout.
If you're looking to experience something real, keep an eye out for Ryan Lee, who will be performing this show at various locations around the Midwest. To see another fun side of Ryan, check out his Song by Noon project.