Probably the last thing you’d take away from Ryn Weaver‘s newly released debut, The Fool, is that the San Diego native is a poppy girl who just wants to have fun. So it was slightly startling to see her seem borderline confectionary as her tour hit Neumos in Seattle Friday night. Startling, but not disconcerting. True, someone who listened to The Fool and felt heavily invested in the album’s more idiosyncratic singer/songwriter moments might conceivably feel betrayed by the pretty-girl-striking-poses aspects of her in-concert persona. But, mostly, it was actually a little bit refreshing to see that Weaver doesn’t take herself as seriously as you might have suspected.
The singer who broke out with “Octahate” last year is clearly willing to act her 22-year-old age, which in this case meant enjoying an uninhibitedly rocking good time on stage. Does a modern gal have to choose whether to be Florence Welch or Katy Perry? It seems not. Being both sexy and heady, Weaver has some options and she’s using them all.
Weaver kicked off her show, with the album-opener “Runaway,” the track that most lulls you into thinking the Florence + Machine or Kate Bush elements might dominate the set with its tribal percussion and bitter sentiments. But she didn’t stay in angry ethereal mode for long. “Pierre,” possibly the album’s best song, settled the set an easy, conversational tone as Weaver ran through a narrative list of the lovers she’s entertained while waiting to reunite with her true one. The singer even alluded to, and instantly dismissed, the idea of slut-shaming as she cataloged this short list of temporary boyfriends, embracing both the elusive ideal of romantic love and the more easily obtainable stopgaps like only a very self-aware 22-year-old could. At this age, being a hopeful but slightly lusty omnivore suits her well, apparently in real life as it does on record.
Benny Blanco’s tutelage of Weaver represents a triumph of artist development, as he’s co-produced (with Passion Pit‘s Michael Angelakos) an album that thoroughly appeals to the heavily programmed pop zeitgeist but also translated quite well to a more rock setting in concert. Weaver’s four-piece backing band did a deft job of recreating the record’s synthesized textures, with some tweaks that made for a more exciting stage show, such as replacing the seemingly fake cymbal crashes in the double-time chorus of “Octahate” with real ones and substituting an actual band crescendo for the dubstep climax of the title track.
Fronting this, with her constant motion and unashamed dearth of polished moves, Weaver actually managed to seem more like an old-fashioned rock chick than pop thrush. Maybe it was just her skin-tight jeans and newly mangled bangs, or maybe it’s that she really does have all the right influences and devil-may-care attitude.
Occasionally one can hear that kind of Joan Baez folk-singer trill in Weaver’s voice, although might not really notice it until, say, the brave a capella run-on-sentence coda of “Traveling Song.” The closing number of both album and show, “New Constellations,” also seemed age-appropriate in its themes — stay with the boy you love, or reach for the stars? — and nicely age-inappropriate in its relative folksiness.
And then Weaver was off, having played all 11 songs from the album with no encore, which might have seemed skimpy if she hadn’t already offered a debutante-prodigy’s array of attitudes and influences. The Fool was already one of the year’s most impressive debuts and it’s a kick to get a better handle on what she is live: a poetically minded good-time-girl omnivore.
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