Ryan Montbleau Band, Puck, Doylestown, PA- 2/16
Emerging to a packed audience the young Ryan Montbleau Band seemed to take up every inch of the stage in presence and space, all six of them. The intimate setting of Puck was just right suiting both performer and audience – a demographic of which consisted largely of recent college graduates. Exchanging humorous banter with fans throughout, the evening had a particularly personal vibe leading to episodic bouts of audience sing-alongs and the shaking of groove-thangs en masse.
Montbleau, playing his oft-compared-to Martin Sexton brand of music, had superb backing from the band. Matt Gianarros or Matty, as he’s affectionately referred to, started the evening off just right with a crowd-pleasing bass solo in show opener “Draw the Line.” Accompanying the skillful drumming of James Cohen that evening, Yahuba Garcia on percussion gave the entire performance an instant motion and dance-inducing rhythm.
A grab-bag of sorts, the night saw songs spanning Montbleau’s entire discography, primarily from latest release Patience on Friday and the previous One Fine Color, but also including some of his earliest works from solo album Stages.
Highlights from the first set included an exquisitely played fan favorite “75 and Sunny” – Montbleau’s introspective reflection on growing up. The oh-so-insightful song resonated loudly with the mid 20-somethings who’ve also reached the point in life where they’d “rather be 75 and sunny/not 29 with a chance of flurries all the time.” The ragtime swing of “Quickie,” featuring more of Gianarros’ remarkable abilities on bass, stood out as an example of the incredible range of Ryan’s repertoire. Irresistible “Honeymoon Eyes,” a raucously rousing love-song, spotlighted Jason Cohen’s mastery on keys and was a particularly apropos end to the first set of this almost Valentines Day show.
Returning from the break, Montbleau emerged by himself for solo versions of “Duncan,” “I Know,” and a stirring rendition of “Just Perfect,” – the stark and introspective look at the weeks, months, and years following the end of a romance. Then, accompanied by Matty and viola player Laurence Scudder, the trio performed “It’s All Been Done Before” and the short but popular song “Eggs” – aptly named for its tongue-and-cheek homage to America’s favorite breakfast food – in which Matty took the vocal role of Marlene to the audience’s delight. Before a listener-demanded encore, Ryan with full backing played a favorite of the love-sick, “If It Comes Around” – a touching ballad about moving on from his own lost love, a love which ironically is the source of much of his music.
Poetic missives, virtuoso performances, and just plain ole’ fun, Ryan Montbleau and band proved the perfect way to spend Valentines Day weekend for people in a relationship, or more appropriately those getting over one.