Himalyan Bear at the Fort Street Cafe

28 04 2011

Since the release of 2006’s “Lo Lonesome Island”, Ryan Beattie’s Himalayan Bear has proven to be one of Victoria’s most captivating projects.  Featuring a rotating cast of musicians including Grayson Walker, Dan Weisdenberger, J McLaughlin, Tolan McNeil, Marek Tyler, and Eric Gallipo just to name a few, Himalayan Bear has been an outlet for Beattie’s ever-blossoming song writing.  And if Thursday night’s show at the Fort Street Cafe is any indication, the best is yet to come.

                On this night Beattie was joined by Megan Boddy (on viola and backing vocals), Rad Juli (filling in for Marek Tyler on drums) and his own reverb-drenched Gretsch guitar, which he cradled like a newborn for the entirety of the evening.  The spare arrangement highlighted Beattie’s mostly melancholic songs of loss (evocatively captured with well-wrought images such as a shirt hanging abandoned on the line) and alcohol (“empty whiskey bottles aloft”), subjects often sung about, but rarely with such tenderness and beauty.

                Beattie’s distinctive alloy of baritone and falsetto gave an added gravity to the words he sang.  His ruminations on darkness, on the expanse of ruinous night, often gave way to moments of a quaking and numinous splendor as Beattie effortlessly straddled entire octave ranges.   

                Finishing his set with a haunting rendition of “Man On Fire” from the forthcoming album “Hard Times”, Beattie and co. gave their intimate audience something to look forward to.  The album, due out later this year, promises to be a further evolution in Beattie’s craft for surely this is a songwriter at the height of his powers.

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