For over 90 minutes last night, Koko in Camden became a little piece of New Mexico as Ryan Bingham and his band brought his full band tour to London.
His emotion-filled gravelly vocals were matched with his wonderful guitar playing, and really nothing sums up the authenticity of Ryan Bingham than the lyrics of ‘Nobody Knows My Trouble’, in which he tells his life story from being “born a cowboy way out west in New Mexico” to “living the good life”, and taking “every day like it’s a paradise”.
This was a song that was sung with such searing honesty that it was difficult to marry the lyrics with the upbeat tempo of the song, but Ryan has said in interviews that he wanted the song “to feel like it was going somewhere”. Since winning an Oscar for best song at the 2010 Academy Awards for his song, ‘The Weary Kind’ from Crazy Heart, Ryan has started his own label named after his wife Anna Axster, and released his latest album ‘Fear and Saturday Night’ on that label.
On Thursday, his performance at Koko took in songs from his impressive and varied catalogue, and easily took the audience from foot-stomping singalong to quiet reflection with hardly any time to catch breath. I heard one member of the crowd turn to his partner and say: “it’s like watching silk” and this sums up the way that this singer moves through his songs charging them all with equal verve and feeling. It’s easy to believe that this is a man who learned to play Mariachi at 16, often moved around Texas and spent time on the rodeo circuit. Ryan Bingham tragically lost his Mother to alcohol and his Father to suicide and all of this is reflected in a voice that Texas Music magazine once described as “a whiskey and cigarette throat that screams hard living”.
Bingham’s band was right on the money roaring out of the gates with “Dollar A Day” and on songs like “Tell My Mother I Miss Her So” and “Radio” Bingham had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Country fans love and appreciate a good fiddler and last night they were not disappointed as Richard Bowden almost set his strings alight. The Fear and Saturday Night Tour has taken in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Scotland, Ireland and England and has left a swathe of happy fans and converts in its wake.
Ryan Bingham’s songs come from the heart and tell the tale of a hard life growing up in New Mexico and Texas. These are not songs about trucks and Daisy Duke shorts, these are songs of ranches and roadhouses. Never was this more apparent than when Ryan stood in front of the enthralled crowd alone with his guitar and sang his heart out. So many times at London venues, this would have had the backdrop of chatter and drinking but last night there were times you could have heard a pin drop as an appreciative audience hung on every word. Ryan Bingham tells stories of life and it was a privilege to listen to them.
Steve Holley is a live music enthusiast from London. His son Max is a singer-songwriter. Find Ryan Bingham on Twitter, Facebook, and his Website. Ryans’ album, ‘Fear and Saturday Night’ is available on iTunes and Amazon. See here for tickets and more information about Ryan’s tour.