This past Thursday, I had the privilege and delight to see Ryan Hobler at Rockwood Music Hall to celebrate the release of his new album, The Elusive Yes. The stage is pretty small, making it a very intimate and cozy setting, especially on such a cold night. But it was the perfect atmosphere for Hobler’s soothing, folky sound.
Accompanying Hobler was a full band, including a bass, beautiful piano, and some very invested backup singers. They commented that it was the first time they had actually played together as a band, but they came together wonderfully. In such a small space, I could not imagine Hobler without the accompaniment, but he surprised me with an acoustic set in the middle of the show that was just as spell binding.
Hobler started the show rather abruptly, his sound seeming to come from out of nowhere. But he worked his guitar in smoothly and slowly and I was quickly swept away in his voice. Crisp and clear, Hobler has true vocal talent that flourishes live, reassuring that he is the real deal.
His first song, “I Have Love, I Have You,” was an instant favorite. I loved the staccato beat, and the sweet words helped carry me along in the perfect folk combination. Hobler does a great job of carrying the music and his band with just his voice and a guitar.
“Got a Ways to Go” was another favorite, especially because of the strong, quirky opening from the piano. It set the beat and set the song apart. The track also has a wonderful old school Beatles vibe to it that just made me feel nostalgic. Hobler makes such music feel refreshing and genuine, something I have not experienced, especially not live, in a long time.
Hobler surprised again with “All Along,” a song about his grandfather, not a common topic for songs these days. That’s something I always take note of and appreciate. Hobler kept it light, the song being a delicate, sweet, moving acoustic track.
He followed with “I Fell Deep,” another soft, dreamlike number. It was quite romantic, making me wish I had it for our Valentine’s Tuesday Tunes last week!
Another different song that impressed was “Don’t Let Go.” This was a new song Hobler was kind enough to share, and one the crowd was audibly eager to hear. With such a small venue it can be hard to have really energetic participation, but by this example and later on in the night, I was pleased to hear the crowd liven up. “Don’t Let Go” was great because it was so upbeat, and also different because it focused on a specific friendship.
Hobler’s highlighted song is “The Boulder and the Glass House,” which is good to begin with, showing his distinct, soothing vocal talent, as well unique and meaningful lyrics. But hearing this song live was an entirely different experience, mainly because of the incorporation of the bass. It is such an uncommon instrument, particularly live, but it has a hallowing sound that truly made the song, and cannot be replicated when not heard live.
When Hobler took the stage for a few solo numbers he did a cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” and wow, did he sound just like them. Publicist Mike Del Priore mentioned this being one of the songs that hooked him on Ryan Hobler, and after the intense stillness of the crowd, I think it is safe to say Hobler captivated with this song once again. It was during this song that it also struck me how at ease Hobler is on stage, and I was quite impressed with how natural performing seemed to come to him. It definitely made me curious to see what he would be like in a bigger venue, and I genuinely hope he gets the opportunity in the near future.
Speaking of Mike Del Priore, Hobler’s solo set allowed for an extra special moment and highlight of the evening. Del Priore actually joined Hobler on stage, bringing a nice, lower vocal range to balance the cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Jack-a-Roe.” Del Priore was able to perfectly use the lyrics, “This couple they got married, so why not you and me,” to come into the crowd and propose to his girlfriend. It was wonderfully sweet and quite the success! Big props to Hobler for helping orchestrate such a memorable moment.
With that the mood was lifted another notch and Hobler knew just how to handle it. He led into “She Came Along,” which elicited true crowd participation and energy, especially with the help of Hobler’s drummer, who really stood out on the track.
Hobler followed up with a song called “Scatterbrained,” which I enjoyed for the metaphors and the further reintroduction of the band. However, I did feel the song got a little lost, and even Hobler worried a bit as he moved into what he called the finicky song, “Near You.” But I was impressed with “Near You,” and Hobler was able to fully bounce back with the beat and energy from “The Day We Last Spoke” and the jazzy undertones of “See What You’re Doing to Me.” This last was another standout, and clearly one of the most heartfelt in Hobler’s repertoire.
“Bob vs. Jack vs. the World” really seemed to be the climax of the night, with an incredible ragtime piano opening. It had an epic song type of feel, similar to that of “American Pie” or some of the Billy Joel greats. It was definitely a favorite to wrap up the night with, especially since Hobler played for well over an hour!
Finally, Hobler took it home with “What I’ve Done,” which was meaningful to him and also felt like a great party jam with good friends. It just seemed to sum up the evening and I was beyond glad that I ventured out to discover a talent worth knowing.
Keep your eye out for Ryan Hobler, and if you have the opportunity to seem him live don’t hesitate, just go!