Goosebumps, Tears, and Laughter: An Evening With YEBBA and Rag'n'Bone Man
The crowd at The Bowery Ballroom on Thursday evening was blessed by not one, but two performances from soulful and powerful singer-songwriters.
The evening kicked off at 8:30 with the Harlem-based YEBBA, who slayed her short, but sweet mix of covers and original songs. "You probably don't know me, so I'm gonna sing some songs you do know," YEBBA said before transitioning into a stunning performance of "Killing Me Softly." The set moved on with an amazing rendition of "American Boy," featuring an accidental mic drop (or throw), which YEBBA smoothly recovered from. While the cover songs still let YEBBA's incredible vocal ability and raw talent shine through, the real magic happened when she sang her original songs. Emotions coursed through the entire crowd as YEBBA sang her first original song of the evening, which she introduced as a song about losing her mom only 5 months ago. By the end of YEBBA's emotive execution, some of the audience members were in tears. Speaking of being brought to tears, even Ed Sheeran has said that YEBBA's next song, "My Mind," has brought tears to his eyes. Please stop reading this article and take a second to watch YEBBA perform "My Mind" at a Sofar Sounds gig:
Now that we've all been emotionally infiltrated by this song, we can get back to talking about YEBBA's last song of the evening, another original called "Light a Candle." She dedicated this one to anyone who has ever someone close to them, and the feels were real. Incredible doesn't even begin to describe the vibes in the room after YEBBA left the stage.
About 30 minutes later, the two-time BRITS Award winner Rory Graham, AKA Rag'n'Bone Man, graced the Bowery Ballroom stage to play his first ever show in America, backed by his extremely talented band. Like YEBBA, Rory also started his set with a cover. Starting out solo on a guitar, he gave a breathtaking, goosebump-inducing performance of "St. James Infirmary" by Louis Armstrong. The nearly 90 minute, 18 song set rolled right along with the title track from the 2014 8-track EP Wolves. From then on, the audience remained hooked by the dynamic and diverse set.
The set progressed with a trio of new songs, taken from the debut full-length Human, including "Ego," "Your Way or the Rope," and "The Fire." Before each song, Rory gives a brief introduction, making the crowd laugh as he talks about always having to wait for his girlfriend before "Your Way or The Rope." While his stage banter may be funny, Rory acknowledges the depressing nature of most of his music, saying, "I didn't come to cheer you up" before playing "Lay My Body Down," a dark, building tune that was originally released on the Wolves EP and made it onto the full length.
Rory introduces the next song, "Perfume" as one he wrote with Ralph Pelleymounter from the band To Kill a King, and one that he hasn't played in three years. Hearing this song alone made the evening incredibly special, but the set rolled on with gem after gem, including a completely stripped back version of the next single, "Skin," featuring only Rory and his keyboard player. After such an intense, raw performance, that showcased Rory's immense vocal talent, he lightened the mood by mentioning he got high and wrote the next song "Grace." Rory continued to get personal with his song introductions, telling the crowd about his grandmother's strong matriarchal presence before playing "Life In Her Yet," and divulging about his close friend's battle with demons and addiction before playing "Odetta."
As the night steered past the halfway point in the set, the mood lifted back up with "As You Are," which Rory also had to point out was one of his two-three happy songs that he has. The band premiered the track "Fade To Nothing" from Human, which featured a killer drum outro, before moving onto the older tune "Guilty." The crowd energy reached an all time high when the bass line to Rory's breakout single "Human" kicked in, the entire crowd singing along. The first part of the set concluded with another solo performance from Rory, this time singing one of his older songs "Die Easy." As Rory winded down the evening with this bluesy, powerful performance, a hush fell over the entire crowd until the last note rang out. As he walked off stage, the immediate and urgent chants for an encore followed.
The band reappeared, and appropriately, the two-song encore kicked off with "Bitter End," another new track from Human. The magical night closed out with the anthemic "Hell Yeah" from the Wolves EP, which features Vince Staples. After Rory and his band humbly and graciously thanked the audience, they left the stage for good this time to explosive cheers and applause, and it was clear that the first Rag'n'Bone Man gig in America was a glorious success.
If you're heading down to SXSW, make sure you catch one of the following Rag'n'Bone Man showcases:
Stay up to date with all of Rag'n'Bone Man's live performances here, and listen to Human now.