Photo by Sara Parker
As part of his UK “Room For Light Tour”, Ryan Keen played in an intimate setting at the ’53 Degrees’ – The University of Central Lancashire’s music venue -on 17 April 2013. For those who have not heard of Ryan Keen, you soon will. He is about to embark on an arena tour with Leona Lewis as her support act. Born and bread in South Devon, Ryan has been playing guitar since he was eight years old. He has been around the music scene for a couple of years, as well as writing songs and music for other artists. He has supported Ed Sheeran on tour twice and recently Newton Faulker, with whom he has also dueted with on his song “Reflections In The Water”, from his “Back to the Ocean” EP. He has also played and toured with Lucy Rose, Ben Howard, Delilah and Emily in the Wood.
Ryan brings an exceptional amount of talent to the stage. He has a certain type of guitar technique – rhythmic percussive with famenco touches. He plucks, taps, finger picks and rhythmically beats the body of his guitar. If watching him play the guitar isn’t enough, he uses his feet to play octaves from a piano on floor pedals to accompany the guitar. The result is amazing to watch and you will be hooked. As well as being an incredibly talented guitar player, his vocals are smooth and rich, and his song writing ability is brilliant. He says he writes best when he is down or low, and ‘Aiming for the Sun’ is proof of this.
Ryan played his set with drummer Lee Levent, who is exceptionally talented too. Playing the cajon as well as snares and cymbals simultaneously. The two are so intuned, playing seamlessly together.
After beckonging the crowd closer to the stage, he opened with “Orelia”, and this song really showcases Ryan’s skills. You have to watch it to believe it yourself. Next comes upbeat and smooth “Trouble”, about staying out of trouble…but again showcasing Ryan’s fantastic percussive skills. (A song he wrote whilst in SXSW in 2011). A performance of the song he did in Paris on 4 April can be found here. This had the crowd swaying and moving along with the song. “Aiming for the Sun” came next, then “Skin and Bones” and “Wish You Well”. Ryan tries to put the crowd in the picture at the beginning of each song, giving a narrative of why the song was written. He then played a cover of Rhianna’s song “Stay” which he asked his fans whether they wanted to see it on his tour setlist… the answer being obvious.
“See Me Now” was next. Maybe one of the most emotive songs during his set. This song is warm and rich, oozing emotion and feeling. Laid back drum beats together with Ryan’s gentle strumming complemented the tone of this song. (Performance of “See Me Now” in Falmouth on 6 April). His vocals live are flawless, and he plays with ease, and with passion. As the venue was not overcrowded, Ryan decided to play his next song “Thank You” unplugged. There wasn’t a sound in the audience as he played out this song to much awe from the gathering of fans.
Photo by Sara Parker
A quick guitar change and “All This Time” electrified notes filled the room with the most amazing sound. Beautiful chords, followed by beautiful lyrics. A delightful and fulfilling song live. “When The Day Breaks” is one of Ryan’s newer songs, one that he asked his fans to get involved with by asking them to submit artwork for each lyric line. He thanked any fans there who contributed and went on to play this uplifting song perfectly, back with his percussive guitar. Ryan also likes to get the audience involved, and as in a previous song, he got people to sing along with his drummer to the harmonies on “Know About Me”. A song he previously wrote for Ed Sheeran. The crowd played up to his request and Ryan was very appreciative of Preston’s ‘choir’.
The last song on his set list was “Focus”, a song about staying true to your dreams and not letting them go. A fans firm favourite. Ryan was delighted to see so many singing along. He ended the set with an instrumental of Coldplay’s “Fix You” to which the crowd sang along too, then another uplugged song “Primrose Hill”.
Ryan holds the audiences attention, its hard not to look away from the stage. Whether its his unique style of guitar playing, the way he sings with meaning and feeling or to listen to the anecdotes associated with each song, this gig was one that will not be forgotten in a while – going away form the gig with a sense of calm and satisfaction. A perfect setting for a soft singing, gentle-voiced artist, who likes to involve his fans.
Find out more about Ryan here: