Ryan Cabrera and his band take the stage at the Whisky a Go Go on Thursday night as Sgt. Peppers plays in the background, and right away you’ve got to like these guys for choosing The Beatles as the standard to which they want to be held to for their performance. They’re on stage tonight in part to bring attention to their new EP titled Wake Up Beautiful, whose single House On Fire has received significant attention. But the setlist ends up being an interwoven mix of new and old (and a few very old) songs which keeps the crowd entertained throughout the evening.
The strength of Ryan Cabrera has always been his ability to invoke the loud bombast of rock and the resonant sheen of pop into the same song, a skill which he spends the evening showing off in one tune after another – and he seems to relish the contrast. Even as he’s singing sweet lyrics, his band members are laying down licks which sound like they wouldn’t be entirely out of place in an eighties rock band.
But just when you think you have Cabrera’s sound figured out, he asks “Is it too early in the evening to play a love song?” and shows off another facet. Then comes a tune called Sing Along from the new EP which sounds like something you might hear in an Irish Pub. He jokes that when he wrote the song he’d had enough to drink that he may have believed he was actually in such a pub at the time. In the middle of the song he hits progressively higher vocal notes and, before hitting the last one, takes a sip of water for effect. If these are inside jokes, the audience is enjoying being in on them.
Steve Lukather from Toto is visible in the audience throughout the evening, and the reason for his presence becomes clear midway through the set when Cabrera introduces his guitarist as being Trev Lukather. It’s a twist which adds another layer of history to a performance taking place in one of rock music’s more history laden venues. But as Ryan Cabrera reach the end of his set he performs House On Fire, whose studio version has a hint of an EDM background to it, meaning yet another musical direction – all while retaining pop sensibilities.
Ryan Cabrera has tour dates in Las Vegas, Tempe and Dallas this month. Wake Up Beautiful is available now.