I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t discover David Ryan Harris through John Mayer, yet even as I type out this sentence, it feels wrong. DRH is widely known by many to be the supporting guitarist for Mayer for years, and likely most of his fans tuned into his sweet, soulful vocals and expressive guitar style through his duets with Mayer on the Live in LA DVD – most notably on live staple cover ‘Free Fallin’.
What a lot of Mayer fans may not know is that DRH has been active in the music scene for a very long time, and has 4 albums of mostly original music of his own. Whilst no stranger to Sydney (he has often played small residencies in local jazz/blues clubs when available), he is in town on the back of Mayer’s world tour – and graces the big city with a solo show of his own at the fantastic Foundry 616.
Foundry is close to packed when I arrive just before the show starts. The majority of guests are seated at their table and likely into their 3rd wine, and the general admission attendees are crowded towards the back quietly sipping craft beer and the occasional whiskey. Foundry is a great club, a perfect setup for live music. At 8.30pm sharp, DRH walks onto the stage amid the murmurings of conversational chatter amongst the crowd. Such is the seemingly anonymity of the artist that it isn’t until he strums a few test chords that the rumblings die down and the audience is ready to listen. Part of me feels a bit odd that there is no applause or cheers from the audience to start the set, but it doesn’t seem to bother DRH.
DRH has a unique style. There’s elements of jazz, blues, soul, gospel and pop – but it’s never one or the other. His lyrical style is very conversational, almost like a letter to himself regarding the world around him. It’s interesting, and an argument could be made for being too basic and without depth. To me, that’s where the beauty lies – because he’s extremely relatable.
Opening with the sublime ‘Used To This’ from early album ‘Soulstice’, DRH’s buttery smooth falsetto is already a highlight – however it’s noticeable from the get-go that his vocals feel strained. I fob this off as acceptable for the first track of the night and think nothing of it. Touching on one of the better tracks from 2017’s ‘Songs for Other People’ in ‘Average Joe’, we’re then treated to ‘Coldplay after Coldplay’ – ‘‘Coldplay’ being the radio-friendly ode to a ex-girlfriend who he is always reminded of when listening to Coldplay’s earlier work, and then launching straight into a blissful cover of Coldplay’s ‘Warning Sign’. His soulful take on the fan-favourite deep cut is extremely well-received, and DRH uses the vehicle once again to highlight that gorgeous falsetto.
DRH’s live shows generally include a couple of covers and tonight was no exception. Along with the aforementioned Coldplay cover, we’re also treated to a respectable version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ and the almost unrecognisable but by no means distasteful ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ by unknown British band Radiohead. It’s only after this that DRH addresses the elephant in the room and admits he has been battling with a lost voice for the majority of the day. It’s not that noticeable, and as any professional musician does he tweaks the setlist and his vocal melodies to accommodate – the result is a falsetto only ‘Sweetest Berry’ which is arguable stronger than it’s album counterpart.
DRH stops occasionally to take requests from the crowd, and most are generally ignored, but the cries of ‘For You’ can only be silenced for so long, and it’s with this that DRH attempts to close the show with this absolute gem. It’s through this track that I and most other punters discovered him, and it’s no fluke – the song is simply glorious. Beautifully written and superbly performed tonight, it’s undoubtedly the highlight of the evening.
As DRH prepares to wave goodbye amongst rapturous applause, he concedes that the night can’t finish just yet and busts out the unplanned ‘Yesterday Shutting Down’.
Tonight was a great little gig to be at. The venue is perfect for a solo artist to do their thing. The punters all in high spirits and were very receptive to the laid-back and simplistic tone of the evening. Noticeable attendees included the majority of Mayer’s touring band, sans Pino Palladino and Isaiah Sharkey, who were more than comfortable chumming it up with the public and catcalling their musician buddy between each song. All in all a great night, and I’ll be sure to catch this Nashville-based singer/songwriter again on his next visit in town.
David Ryan Harris, Foundry 616, Thursday 28th March, 2019.
- Used To This
- Average Joe
- Warning Sign (Coldplay cover)
- Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (Bob Dylan Cover)
- Still Be Loving You
- I Believe In Us
- Subterranean Homesick Alien (Radiohead cover)
- Sweetest Berry
- For You
- Yesterday Shutting Down