Words and Images by: Jesse Borrell
Marc Broussard & Serena Ryder :: 09.16.08 :: Hiro Ballroom :: New York, NY
Upon entering NYC's Hiro Ballroom, I was immediately struck by the lavish Asian-influenced décor. The joint was bustling with activity as people of all ages were sipping their Sapporo's under paper lanterns and oriental brush paintings. This event was to celebrate the release of Marc Broussard's newest album, Keep Coming Back (released September 16 on Atlantic Records).
|Serena Ryder :: 09.16 :: NYC|
One of the more pleasant surprises of the evening was the opening act, an up-and-comer from our neighbors to the North. Toronto's Serena Ryder displayed an ease and comfort with the spotlight from the beginning of her almost unplugged set. Backed up by Chris Masterson (Son Volt) on a slick electric mandolin, her song "Sweeping The Ashes" set a tone that tapped into the key elements of songwriting: breadth and space.
Although one could write her off as reaching into "been there, done that" territory in terms of content, there was a fresh and edgy quality to her delivery that sold every single word with a very distinct intonation. During the power ballad "All For Love," Ryder exuded a rock star quality that could be further reinforced by a back-up band of her own like Grace Potter and her respective Nocturnals.
As Marc Broussard and his five-piece band started, their deep roots in funk and soul were immediately apparent. "Keep Coming Back" featured a dynamic range of sounds, including an added horns section, which complimented Broussard's powerful vocal reach. "This is the first song we have ever written as a band," Broussard noted before playing "Power's In The People." DeMarco Johnson's keyboard work on the track added distinguished textures to reinforce the statement as the band gelled into a cohesive unit.
|Marc Broussard :: 09.16 :: NYC|
The group's sound ranged widely from Southern swamp rock to Motown soul throughout the night. Behind his deep delivery on crowd favorite "The Wanderer," Broussard's talent as both a leader and entertainer justified his position as frontman. Unfortunately, most of the night the back-up band was almost lost under blue and red lighting schemes, giving the man of the hour most of the literal limelight even when others stood out aurally.
A mixture of old and new cuts showed evidence of thematic development since his start as an artist. The hit song "Rocksteady," off 2004's Carenco, came off as somewhat flimsy pop in comparison to the newer, more substantial material performed, such as the grungy rhythm and blues version of "Hard Knocks," which featured dueling riffs between guitarists David Clement and Adam Agati.
Just as the musician before him, Marc Broussard and his entourage shined brightest when they let the music breathe and materialize a couple measures outside of the radio edit mark. Broussard's new album, Keep Coming Back, is available now. Serena Ryder's Sweeping the Ashes EP will be released on iTunes on October 14.
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