Ryan Bingham - The Borderline, London
It’s been a tough few years for Ryan Bingham, in his personal life at least. Not the semi-cliched 'isn't my life hard' kind of tough, but in the stark truthfulness of the loss of both his parents. During that period he made two records: the softer, more contemplative Junky Star from 2010, and 2012’s angry, aggressive Tomorrowland. If you caught the gravel-voiced troubadour on dates supporting either of those you will have seen him melding his touching, quiet songs with the countrified rock of his early material, before thrashing a harder path through a run of dates in 2012.
Having come out of the other side of that difficult period, Bingham's new record is full of warmth and positivity, something he attributes to his wife and impending fatherhood. It's against this backdrop that he's back in the UK for a three date tour. The sold-out Borderline is more used to trendy up and coming indie acts so marks a different choice than previous venues like Bush Hall. With a stage completely stripped bare - with the exception of a single mic and stand - it's clear this will be a different show; just the man himself, a guitar in hand, cowboy hat on head.
Stripped of his band, and with some of the emotional weight lifted from his shoulders, the singer is a more relaxed and comfortable host. Rattling through his catalogue, he streamlines sometimes meandering recorded tunes into concise live versions to the real benefit of some tracks: ‘Depression’ becomes clearer; new song ‘Nobody Knows My Trouble’ is raw and real; and ‘South Side of Heaven’ is expertly slowed down and closes with a perfectly pitched dose of harmonica. There are a couple of dips (a few too many from the new record means momentum is lost in the mid-section) but Bingham’s jovial storytelling pulls the attention back.
Closing with the rollicking early tracks 'Sunshine' and 'Bread and Water' - and showing off some mean slide guitar skills - brings the show full circle and cements the idea that 2014’s Ryan Bingham is comfortable enough with his past to move forward, both in life and songwriting.