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Ryan Beatty Mesmerizes Crowd at Chicago's Thalia Hall

In the echoing atmosphere of Chicago's historic Thalia Hall, Ryan Beatty fans await his arrival on the stage with anxious anticipation. In April of 2023, Beatty released junior album, Calico, and it was unlike anything he had put out to date. Each song managed to be peacefully hushed, yet sprawling and consuming in a way that makes you feel as though you're floating, only stopping every once and awhile to look down below and take in the beauty of Earth. In the past, Beatty had geared more towards Pop, then some Electronic R&B, but with Calico, he invents something precisely his own. It was because of this that this show feels as though it came with its own brand of buzzing anticipation. Will we dance? Will we be moved to tears more than once? Can we expect anything new?


The answer to all of these questions was, of course, absolutely.


The crowd had piled in just before the rain outside came pouring down, setting the mood just right. The crowd mouldings outlining the room, dating back to 1892, are illuminated in purple and blue lights just as you walk in. It is not long before these lights begin to dim into almost complete darkness, when suddenly the spotlight shines on the piano, and band member, Taylor Mackall plays a nearly 2-minute soothing serenade, as the crowd builds in anticipation. As he plays, the rest of the six-member band begins to trickle out one by one, earning cheers from the audience. It's then that Beatty glides onto the stage-looking cool as ever in a simple white tee and blue jeans.


Putting headphones on, he listens intently to the piano as the rest of the band join in with their respective instruments in the harmonious choir. Slowly, the instrumental morphs into something familiar-the opening to first single off Calico, the melancholy and nostalgic, "Ribbons." As Beatty begins to sing with delicate force, the audience is dead silent, so intently focused on his voice that sounds almost better than it does in the studio version. Nobody breaths for fear of missing a note sung by him.



As he glides through the dreamy, "Cinnamon Bread," accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar, we come to a personal favorite of mine, "Andromeda," which Beatty put an intriguing twist on, letting his vocals fade into robotically engineered harmonies that echoed throughout the entire building and reverberated in your chest. The only note I wrote while he was playing this was "FLOATING."


Ryan takes a moment to talk about his Chicago show in September of last year at Lincoln Hall. In a moment of vulnerability, he shares how nervous he was before that show but how this was eased by the fans at Lincoln Hall, who immediately embraced and uplifted him. As someone who was at that show as well, although it was also a stunning performance, the increase in his confidence this time around is incredibly prominent. He remarks, "I was so touched-the show was amazing last time. But I'll tell you right now, I'm not nervous at all and I'm just happy to fucking be here."


He soon moves on to a stripped-down version of "Haircut" off his 2018 record, Boy in Jeans, blending it seamlessly with sultry unreleased song "Cupid" and other iconic Boy in Jeans track, "Powerslide." Although the arrangement is quite different from the upbeat and poppy feel of the original tunes, it feels like a head-nod to long-time fans, acknowledging their dedication with a fresh and maybe even funkier twist on older songs. It's a perfect illustration of applying one's current and more refined style to music of the past-a beautiful and authentic way to honor his path to where he is now artistically.


He stands up for an even more intimate moment with the audience as he sings, "Bruises Off The Peach." His eyes remain closed, and his arms occasionally raise, feeling each bit of the track. The instrumentation gains momentum and gets much larger as the drums join in, giving him more confidence to extends the notes. "Multiple Endings," however, is just his vocals and Mackall on the piano, and the entire room is still as they listen.


Ryan later takes the time to thank the crowd again, as he divulges, "This is a dream come true for me, playing these songs for you. It's just a feeling I haven't caught up to yet, but it's [unreal] doing this."


As his "last" song, he plays the captivating, "White Teeth," only to return very shortly after to spice things up for fans with a heartfelt cover of Dolly Parton's, "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?" For a song that came out almost 50 years ago, it still manages to captivate an audience just the same. Finally, to close out, he plays "Little Faith," an earnest and vulnerable ballad that brought tears to more than a few eyes. His stratospheric vocals created the perfect ambience to close out a night that felt as though it was brimming with magic.


It seems almost imperative to note that the crowd at Thalia Hall on this March evening maintained an etiquette rarely seen nowadays. The ambience was calm and the quiet called for nothing more than humming delicately along (give or take a few moments), rather than screeching out every word as though you're trying to prove yourself. While some shows do call for that, and they can be incredibly fun in their own right, this was perhaps more than just a show but instead a true and genuine performance. Fans wanted to hear Beatty sing and give us his all, not tune out the person next to us and try our best to hear the person actually onstage. It was certainly, however, never boring. The cohesiveness and passion of the band tied with Beatty's ethereal and soaring vocals captivated every single person there. His reverence for the craft shaped the entire night, and it gave fans a truly unique experience-one of catharsis and blissful harmony.


Get tickets to see Ryan Beatty live here.


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