Ryan Montbleau Brings Down the House at The Sinclair In Cambridge (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

“Look at you, I love you!” Ryan Montbleau shouted affectionately to the audience as he took the stage on Wednesday night. The feeling was clearly mutual as Ryan and his nine-piece band returned home for a two-night stint at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA.

Montbleau and friends treated the crowd to a 20 song set and by the fifth song,“Honeymoon Eyes,” they had already brought the house down with an intense, minutes-long keyboard solo by Beau Sasser. The joy for fans both old and new of seeing either Ryan Montbleau or the Ryan Montbleau Band live (and no question, they are each a very different experience) is the sweeping range of genres they capture. Montbleau’s catalogue includes soul, funk, Americana, R&B and folk to name a few. While both pull from the same catalogue to comprise their setlists, Montbleau solo tends to be more of a mellow, storytelling experience whereas the Ryan Montbleau Band is a show. The audience was treated to both sides on Wednesday.

It’s hard to highlight the clear audience favorites because the audience reacted in such a syncopated rhythm with the band. During “Hot Coffee in A Paper Cup,” a roaring 20’s ditty, Montbleau was aptly backed on vocals by Kit Holliday and Lydia Harrell (a.k.a. Lady Parts). The room was instantly time warped from Cambridge 2016 to Gatsby’s Mansion in 1920, and there was no shortage of swing dancing going on. The band also treated the crowd to a new song called “Bright Side,” which features Montbleau’s distinctive, percussive style guitar playing.

Some of the best energy of the night evolved during the reggae jam “Songbird,” which is danceable and sublime and in true fashion of the genre, imparts wisdom with the lyrics “life is the dancer and you are the dance.” About halfway through the set, Montbleau enlisted fellow Boston singer and soul dynamo Jesse Dee, who was in the audience, to perform a barbershop cover duet of the 60s R&B song “I’m Your Puppet.”

At the end of the night, Montbleau slowed it down and took the stage solo for a spellbinding rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” Lyle Brewer, Montbleau’s former guitarist, returned in that role and was well-received. Brewer also provided the opening support in a creative, 45-minute set of classical guitar. Montbleau is known for giving local, rising artists the opportunity to open his shows and Brewer is steadily carving out a clever niche in the genre.

Setlist:

The Last One to Love Me Back
Ghosts
Hot Coffee in a Paper Cup
Honeymoon Eyes
Never Gonna Be
Carry
Bright Side
Songbird
Draw the Line
Head Above Water
I’m Your Puppet (w/ Jesse Dee)
75 and Sunny
Fast Car
The Boat Song
Dead Set
Pacing Like Prince
Back in Love Again

Encore:
Throw Me Away
Should I Stay or Should I Go
I Can’t Wait

Photos by Rich Gastwirt. 

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