Ryan Star told the packed Rockwood Music Hall last night that the lyrics from his new EP “Animals” (Ryan Star) set off a lot of worry among fans and friends.
“I’ve gotten the most concerned texts about my life ever – and tweets, and Facebook comments,” said the Dix Hills native. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs.”
“But this is one of the ups,” he says, launching into the lovely ballad “My Life With You.”
The concern is understandable, especially considering the stressful situations depicted in “[Expletive] Up” and the stunning “Bullet,” which is even more impressive live than on the record.
However, watching Star – and his first-rate band keyboardist/singer Dallin Applebaum, guitarist Dan Tirer, bassist Artie Fleischmann and drummer Eli Logothetis – rip through the emotional songs, it’s clear that everything is all right. Even the poppier songs, “Stay Awhile” and the new single “Impossible,” are fueled by an intensity that’s inspirational.
Star, who recently left Island Records in order to release “Animals” himself, is clearly a man on a mission, seemingly possessed on “The World I Used to Know” as he slams the mic stand into the stage to make his point about moving forward.
Maybe the clearest statement of purpose, though, was his version of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” delivered on the piano in half-time, letting each word sink in – “You could stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down.”
The new Star, shaved-head and all, seems to be working. With little warning and no major-label support, “Animals” hit the Top 10 on iTunes altermative rock charts this week and his “NYC Takeover” has been sold out each night. (It continues with shows at Piano’s tonight and Mercury Lounge tomorrow.)
“I’m not the kind of person who can fake it,” Star says, to a roar from the crowd. Yeah, it’s pretty clear this is all real.
SETLIST: Bullet / The One You Know / Brand New Day / The World I Used to Know / Sink or Swim / My Life With You / [Expletive] Up / Stay Awhile / Psycho Suicidal Girls / Back of Your Car // ENCORE: Famous Love > I Won’t Back Down / Impossible