Jae C. Hong, AP Country music stood proud at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards…
- Posted on Jul 22nd 2010 10:53AM by Annie Reuter
Before his set began, pamphlets of lyrics to the songs from his upcoming Sept. 7 release, 'Junky Star,' were passed out. Artist Kiki Smith then introduced Bingham with immense praise.
"We're here to celebrate Ryan Bingham. The wounded part of him that he sings about gives me the opportunity to heal myself. For me, that is very powerful," she said.
Bingham kicked off the night with the beautifully delicate 'The Poet,' which captivated the crowd with light guitar finger picking and a harmonica intro. In fact, the room was silent throughout the entirety of his set -- whether he was singing or tuning his guitar, he grabbed the listener's attention wholeheartedly.
"I'm going to try to play as many songs for you as I can without much talking involved. When I don't have very long time, I learn to play as many songs as I can. I'm not very good at talking anyways, so it works out," he said.
His nearly hour-long set included many tracks off his upcoming T Bone Burnett-produced LP. 'Strange Feelin' in the Air' showcased an edgy guitar introduction accompanied by Bingham's relentless vocals while 'Depression,' a slower ballad with powerful strumming, discusses the condition the country is in.
"All these songs are about the past couple years traveling around the country, the people I've met and the state the country is in. ['Depression'] is a love story about the great depression today all mixed in."
Before the next track, 'Hallelujah,' Bingham clarified that it's not a cover of Leonard Cohen's original. Inspired by a homeless man he met on the streets in Chicago, Bingham prefaced his performance with the tale of an escalated situation that's reflected in the song's outcome.
"My imagination is running wild. A lot of these songs are about traveling around. You meet a lot of people on the streets and it's sad."
With emotion-filled vocals and descriptive lyrics, the audience understood.
Though the majority of his set featured tracks from his upcoming release, the Academy Award-winning songwriter also performed some older fan favorites. The moving 'Southside of Heaven' was followed by the foot-stomping track, 'Tell My Mother I Miss Her So,' which Bingham dedicated to "all the mamas out there, whether you have kids or not." An energetic number, the room clapped along throughout the song.
As he changed from his acoustic guitar to a bottleneck for 'Bread and Water,' Bingham showcased his impressive handy work and quickly transformed the New York venue into a honky tonk in Texas, garnering him a standing ovation.
While the crowd no doubt wanted to hear more from Bingham, the set was a more-than-adequate preview of what's to come for the soulful musician.
One fan in particular, Yvonne Force Villareal, remembers witnessing Bingham firsthand years ago in Texas. Through her urging, he came to New York a few months later and played for her birthday at Donna Karan's studio in the West Village. She couldn't be happier about his success.
"It gives you faith in the system when he's getting an Oscar," Villareal told Spinner, sharing a sentiment seemingly held by many others in the audience.