Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tyler Ward Band May 29 2011

            I got a chance to see Tyler Ward Band play at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver on May 29th.  The theatre was packed with a young, enthusiastic audience.  Tyler Ward is a local Denver musician who has recently found a lot of success over YouTube.  In addition to performing, Ward has also begun producing for a number of other independent artists and promoting them through a “featured artist” series on YouTube.  His first featured artist, singer/songwriter Katy McAllister, opened the show.  McAllister’s songs are wistful and wise and she sings with a rich expressive voice.  Her final song, “Here’s to the Heartbreakers,” elicited cheers from the audience.  Eleven-year old Minnesota native, Josie Nelson, who has also been featured on Tyler Ward’s YouTube channel, followed Katie McAllister.   Josie opened with her own original song, “Sunshine,” accompanying her uncommonly lovely voice on the guitar.  Although overall I enjoyed her music, I found Josie’s performance a little disconcerting as she sang several songs with content that seemed too mature for her.
            Both of the opening acts were greeted with enthusiastic applause, but it was clear that most of the audience was there to see Tyler.  The lights dimmed and Tyler’s band filtered one by one onto the stage with their instruments, building the frame of a song as each band member joined in.  The lights came on just as the music crashed fully into the opener, Tyler’s original song, “Doubt.” There couldn’t have been a better way to open the show.  “Doubt” is hip-hop with some rock undertones.  It starts out quietly and then builds in intensity and energy as singer Alex G’s vocals haunt the background.  The song built perfectly to Tyler’s entrance, which was greeted by several synchronized calls of “I love you, Tyler,” from girls in the audience. Tyler Ward is an incredibly energetic performer.  He moved constantly, almost frenetically, through the entire performance.  One moment he would be leaning into the crowd, microphone pressed to his mouth and the next he would be playing air guitar behind the band’s guitarist, Lance Gregory.
            The Tyler Ward Band deserves special mention here.  They are a phenomenally skilled group of performers.  One of the most thrilling moments of the show was when the drummer, Joel Burns, began a drum solo that must have lasted a good minute and half.  The band just stood back and let him do his thing and it was jaw dropping. The guitarist, Lance Gregory, was also a standout.  He had several exception guitar solos.  The band, which also includes keyboardist Drew Bartels and Josh Corbett on bass all live together in one house and have been playing together for about four years.   “We saw them during a battle of the bands competition,” Tyler said when I got a chance to sit down and speak with him after the show, “They took first place and we took thirteenth.  I was like, ‘I want that band.’”
            Tyler Ward’s music is difficult to classify.  His opener, “Doubt,” for instance, had the vocals of a rap song, but the complex guitar riffs and baseline of rock.  He blends styles seamlessly. “It’s just that we all love music,” Tyler said, “so we just try to, like, take the best parts of music that we like together and just jam and pack them into the set.  It’s kinda cool.  It’s not just like one genre.  It’s like, rap, country, hiphop, pop.”  The diversity of genres worked well for Tyler.  He has a flexible voice and knows his way around a guitar.  His chameleon-like musical performance was compelling.  The music was a mostly original work, as Tyler writes his own songs, with a few covers thrown in for good measure.  Tyler plays with the sound of covers a lot, “We’ll take a hiphop song that’s really good and so we’ll turn it into a rock version,” he says. “When people hear the songs, they connect more…because when they’re enthused, it’s really fun to play.” It’s interesting to hear the threads of a familiar song turned inside out into something new, and the audience sang along to his covers of “Forget You,” and “I’m Yours.”
            Tyler comes from a musical family, and has been interested in music since he was a child.  “I was a third grader, it was like, ninety something and it was the Goo Goo Dolls and the guy was like ‘This is the greatest job I’ve ever had, thank you so much,’ and I was like, it would be so cool to do music for a living.  Like, what could be better?”  It was particularly touching during the show when Tyler brought his mother, Susan Ward, and his brother, Derek Ward, onto the stage to perform with him.  Their acoustic cover of Eminem’s “No Love” was eloquent and beautiful, one of my personal favorite moments.
            The concert had an inclusive, intimate feel to it, and it’s important to Tyler that his music be that way.  “I decided to really get involved with fans, and just communicate and interact with them as much as we can,” he says.  “It’s like, I want my fans to experience part of what I experience and it’s like, ‘Let’s just have a journey together.  Let’s grow up together.’”  Tyler seems to go out of his way to highlight talented musicians.  Hip hop artist, Eppic, with whom he’s worked before, helped opened the show and joined Tyler for three or four numbers, including “Mary’s Song,” a YouTube favorite.  Jess Moskaluke, another of Tyler’s featured artists from YouTube, did back up vocals for several songs as well as performing her original song, “Amen, Hallelujah” with Tyler and the band.  Moskaluke’s song is a perfect example of the diverse musical styles that the concert showcased.   “Amen, Hallelujah,” an old school country song, expressing cheerful admiration of a good looking man, somehow merged flawlessly into the musical texture of a concert that included the hopeful wistfulness of new love in the pop song “Falling” and the lyrical, solemnity of the orchestral rap “Home.” 
            The night ended with a three song encore that brought every musician who’d performed that night on the stage at once to end with the song “Dynamite,a Taio Cruz cover.”  They stayed at least an hour at the front of the theatre signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.  When I asked Tyler, at the end of our interview (and the night) what it was that he wanted to say, he said “What’s in the future?  And in the future, you should become a [facebook] fan, because if you follow us, you’ll notice that it started at a real small level and I’ve been doing shows for about four or five years…then when this YouTube thing hit, I couldn’t believe the size of the response.”  Which sums up, fairly well, the feeling I got from the night as a whole.  Tyler Ward and Crew started small and intimate and have somehow managed to keep the intimacy of a small band even as they’ve gotten steadily more successful.

-Penelope Morgan

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