Ryan Bingham Breaks And "Begs For Broken Legs" At The Fonda Theatre - 9/27
When it comes to country music, we listen for heart-wrenching lyrics – emotionally explicit – and often sung by a raw and raspy voice. Life’s trials and tribulations are placed over steadily syncopated rhythms and precise finger picking or soulful strumming – along with stories of love found and love lost – the latter seemingly more relatable. And New Mexico-born, Texas raised, bull rider turned Oscar and Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham met such expectations on his first three studio albums.
"Mescalito" (2007), his debut, was popularized by the turbulent emotional blues of “Don’t Wait For Me” and the transcending “Southside of Heaven”. "Roadhouse Sun" (2009) extended the whiskey-and-cigarettes voice with personal conviction in “Country Roads.” In "Junky Star"(2010) Bingham conventionally sings about love – but in an unconvential way – considering what a relationship might have been like during the Depression on “Depression”. A precursor perhaps, to what several relationships might look like today. “Hallelujah”, a song about a hopeful turned frightening interaction with a homeless man still stands as a Bingham fan favorite.
His collaboration with T-Bone Burnett on “The Weary Kind” that same year solidified Bingham as an esteemed country singer and songwriter. Written for the movie "Crazy Heart" (2009) in which Jeff Bridges stars as a former country music musician forced to confront his past filled with disappointment and dysfunction, Bingham won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Writing for Motion Pictures, a Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 2010 and a Grammy for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media in 2011.
Today, Bingham and his music take a turn on his most recent album. While reality and rasp remain, "Tomorrowland," released on Sept. 18th, is no place for the weary kind. Instead it’s a ballsy and fitting screw you to the “economically busted and morally bankrupt world” - although Bingham does not consider himself a political person or protest song writer – as he shared with the New York Times. Bingham may not have been intentionally protesting, but on Sept. 27, listeners at the Fonda Theater in Hollywood heard messages about life, politics and relationships that could not be ignored.
Listeners strolled into the historic 1920s venue as Latin band La Santa Cecilia opened the show the third show (that was kicked off in San Francisco on Tuesday). Six original and cover songs later the audience expanded to approximately 250 people as Bingham took the stage two hours late. But the 10pm start time didn’t make a difference for the plaid wearing PBR drinking fans, especially when Bingham started with the first song off the new album “Beg for Broken Legs.”
The energy was high and the drinks were flowing…and not just between the audiences. Connected to an amplifier by a vintage coiled telephone cord, and classically sporting suspenders, a cowboy hat and boots, Bingham took one sip of water. His throat was coated with whiskey and beer the rest of the evening. “Western Shore” was next and required the first of at least ten of three guitar changes that evening. Otherwise, Bingham traveled light; with a drummer, keyboard, bass and guitar player who was also pretty thirsty. “Anyone wanna give me a shot?” he asked ten minutes into the show. Bingham responded quickly with “Yeah I’ll drink some with ya if you’re feelin it.” Taking him seriously, a fan passed a shot of Jim Beam up to the stage half way through the set and Bingham took it back within seconds.
As the clapping and stomping died down at the end of the “Guess Who’s Knockin” – also known as the song “you’ll probably not want to play at your mother in law’s house” according to Bingham – the audience shouted out requests. Among them were “Southside of Heaven” and “Hallelujah.”
But Bingham was one step ahead as he switched guitars and said, “We’re going to change things up a bit.” Two seconds later the infamous guitar picking began and the crowd was riled up like clockwork as soon as they recognized the “Hallelujah” intro.
Like any good performer, Bingham balanced his classics with songs from the new album nicely. He also sought to make the show intimate as his band left the stage for the rugged riffs and politically aware messages in “Flower Bomb.” “It’s been a hell of a ride I’ll tell you that”, said Bingham as a preface to the controversial tune. Eyes closed, hands rested and heads nodded as he sang, “They tell us, up in heaven there is food for eat but for now all we get is this shit on the street; for in this world we just can’t trust and food stamps filling our bellies up.” Taking it back to his first album the heavy mood remained as Bingham sang, “I’ve done a lot of things I could have done better” in “Ever Wonder Why.”
“And I hope everybody had a real good time and
I hope I didn’t bring you down
These aint sad songs so don’t take ‘em wrong
I haven’ been home in a while
And I’ll see you all around…Hope you all stick around.”
Awaiting his or her favorite song, no one moved. After a quick break, Bingham returned to the stage with his band to play “Southside of Heaven.” And while the cheers could compete with the amplifiers, they were nothing compared to those Bingham received as he ended the show with “Sunshine” and “Bread and Water”.
“We’re gonna turn it up for you a little bit”, he said. But the sound levels were already up, as were the spirit and satisfaction of his fans. Therefore, the thought of reaching another level in the Fonda was incomprehensible. Similarly is the often-indescribable connection a listener has to the artist at a good live performance. A performer of many notes and very few words, Bingham ensured that his audience walked away eager to have "Tomorrowland" on repeat and even more anxious to hear what Axster Bingham Records will come up with next.
Check out and purchase Bingham's new album here.
Reach Staff Reporter Cortney Riles here.