Milk Carton Kids & Ryan Bingham NEWCASTLE

Milk Carton Kids & Ryan Bingham
Tine Theatre and Opera House
January 29th 2020

I’m a fan of Texan singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham; but The Milk Carton Kids have passed me by; with their reviews being handled by the Legendary Roy Peak in Americae for us. So, with both acts on this double bill being popular on RMHQ I was pretty excited to attend tonight; especially as it was going to be in one of my favourite; if under used venues in the City Centre.
Baring in mind how ‘popular’ Milk Carton Kids are; I was disappointed to see a few empty seats in the downstairs area; especially as there were a couple of dozen people sitting in the balcony; but perhaps they got a better view up there.
Bingham came on stage to muted applause; but that was more to do with the house lights still being on rather than any slight; as the raucous applause and cheering that followed many of his songs would prove.
His opening song; The Poet set the tone for his 50 minute set; slow, moody and deeply personal with his grizzled voice and nippy guitar picking settling the crowd down very quickly.
As he re-tuned his guitar he told a delightful story about how his Mother had initially instilled a love of music in him as a child and also bought him his *first guitar.
This led into the deeply personal Tell My Mother (I Miss Her So) which brought the loudest applause for a support act’s song than I’ve heard in years.

For a young man; Bingham has packed a lot into his years; which tends to end up in his songs, which come from the ‘Sing About What You Know’ guide book; and with songs as diverse as Jingle and Go, Broken Heart Tattoos and Crazy Heart in the locker; he’s a welcome torchbearer for the legendary Texan Songwriter Troubadours who came before him
His first *guitar got another mention later when he told us about the first tune he ever learnt to play; which I’m not going to spoil as it’s a key part of his set; but it got both chuckles and ‘aaahhs’ from the receptive crowd.
The final two songs; South Side of Heaven and Crazy Heart itself felt like an encore; especially as their introductions received loud hoots, hollers and applause before Ryan’s world weary voice once again sang about his world weary wisdom, in a way that belies him not actually headlining.
The next part of the evening is being written an hour after a ‘Twitter Spat’ with both the band and some fans (most who weren’t at the gig!) regarding an incident that I will talk about later.
I will try not to let this ‘colour my words’ and just refer to my notes.
During the interval there was a distinct buzz of anticipation in the bar; and I’m pleased to report that there was a very diverse mix of ages in attendance; which makes a nice change for Roots gigs in Newcastle.
The dapperly dressed duo arrived on stage to tumultuous applause and whistles which stopped in the blink of an eye as they stood by the single microphone and went into the winsome Younger Years (?) which was full of delicious harmonies and sublime finger picked guitar from both chaps; reminding me of those early Simon and Garfunkel records.
With a smile and a nod to acknowledge the applause Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan regaled the adoring masses with a masterful A Sea of Roses; and as it ended the long haired Pattengale ‘complained about the clicking from a/the photographer’s cameras’ and instead of the ‘first three songs’ being allowed for photographs he requested they cease immediatly.
At this stage I was already back in my seat after realising that the act was going to remain stood at the mic for the rest of the gig; and I saw one other making his way to the back; which left the third of our infernal trio; who began packing his cameras away (out of view …. or so he thought). Had events stopped there; all would have been fine and dandy; but our friend Kenneth got his eye on him; and taking on the guise of Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory began to make fun, nay torment this chap …… to the amusement of several in the audience.
This went on for nearly five minutes, with Joey Ryan trying to mediate and get the gig back on track; but ‘Sheldon’ wouldn’t let it lie and kept interjecting.
Eventually sanity was restored and the concert continued; with a rather nippy Bluegrass song; that really emphasised their dexterity on guitar but their wondrous harmonies too.
Seeing how ‘judgmental’ their fans are; I’m not going to guess at the song titles in my notes; and very few were introduced in the traditional manner; although I did recognise Broken Headlights and it’s whispered harmonies; Maybe It’s Time and New York; which was a definite highlight for me.
Perhaps I’m not bright enough or perhaps even educated enough to ‘get’ Pattengale’s wacky sense of humour (I think the woman behind me was in danger of peeing herself at one stage; she was laughing so much); but he was easily distracted from the job in hand………. teasing Ryan about a song ‘written for a funeral’ and ‘hearing Ryan sing a particular song for the first time’ …. then deliberately putting him off by pretending to waltz to the off-beat.
Then there was the obligatory gag about accents when someone called out a request (The Only Ones btw; and rather splendid it was too as they sung it ‘off mic’); and again; he just didn’t know when to pull up the metaphorical drawbridge.
Although 70% of the audience seemed genuinely surprised; the duo came back for the contractually obliged encores; Hope of a Lifetime and The As and Clay followed by a very slow and wearisome Michigan; when the night was crying out for something up-tempo (they must know a feisty Bluegrass song that would fit the bill; or at least Wake Up Little Suzie!)
As we all know music is very subjective; and we all like different things in different ways. Tonight Milk Carton Kids were technically exceptional; and their harmonies are up there with the very best of all time; but if you didn’t know individual songs in advance (as my brother didn’t) nothing really stood out of the pack.
If it hadn’t been for the Twitter spat/attack this morning towards my alter-ego I probably wouldn’t have spent the last two hours writing this review.

Photo-Set Ryan Bingham

Photo-Set Milk Carton Kids ?

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