Ryan Beatty headlines Slim’s with authentic, intentional performance

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Thursday saw San Francisco’s Slim’s crowded with young people. Various couples embraced amorously. Gentle blue and pink lights bathed the venue, and sensual tunes bled from the speakers as the crowd waited for Ryan Beatty to take the stage.

You could feel the anxious energy in the room stir as time ticked on — doors were at 7 p.m., but by 8:45 with no opener, Beatty had yet to make an appearance. As the buzz in the room gave way to antsy irritation, it was unclear whether or not Beatty was running late or playing up suspense. As such, any movement on stage drummed up excitement. So it was fitting that when Beatty finally did emerge, he was greeted with eager screams.

Beatty’s “Haircut” opened the show, and, given the song’s popularity, the fact that the crowd was able to sing along to every word was not a surprise. As the show went on, with chronological adherence to his debut album Boy in Jeans, it became clear that this commitment to Beatty’s music was not just for his popular songs; his devoted fans were invested in his music as if it were a matter of life or death.

As “Euro” followed, Beatty impressed with vocal ad libbing and improvised riffs. The crowd was quick to sing backup in the instances that these vocal acrobatics eclipsed a song lyric. A lot of the gems of the performance came from the subtle imperfections he brought to the songs, a raw nature that paired well with the lyrical content.

For the quaking electricity that overtook the room at his presence, Beatty took on a more demure bearing. It proved to be a nice contrast to the screaming youngsters practically vibrating with excitement.

The crowd swayed, dipped and vibed heavily with Beatty’s performance, everything about the show running seamlessly. There was a mutual exchange of excitement between the audience and Beatty, as if everyone in the room had entered some kind of agreement to love and support each other equally.

This sentiment became even clearer as Beatty relied on the audience to fill in various parts of his songs, a safety net he fell into with wide, trusting arms every time. And it says so much about Beatty and the music he has produced that the audience never failed him.

When “Party’s Over” began, Beatty toned his already reserved energy down further in solidarity with the number. The audience members compensated — every number worth their full, euphoric engagement.

And so churned this machine of love and support.

When Beatty launched into “Money,” his smile edged out the remorseful nature of the lyrics, demonstrating that he clearly felt the love in Slim’s that night. This was particularly wonderful to see as he sang his way through a song about social insecurity.

Every new song was accompanied by raucous excitement — it didn’t matter how familiar the audience was with the progression of songs on the album. It was just consistent, infallible jubilance.

And given that Boy in Jeans was performed in its 14-track entirety, with “Powerslide” performed twice just for the hell of it, it was significant that this energy never wavered. While the show’s staying at a constant 100 did get a bit tedious, what the show lacked in dynamics it more than made up for in the sheer joy passing through the crowd.

Toward the end of the set, Beatty stopped the show to wax poetic about his trajectory to fame and express gratitude toward his fans. He was genuine and intentional, much like his music. It can’t be understated how refreshing it was to see a young man sing unapologetically about his love for men and his identity.

As he moved to begin the last song of the night, he mused, “I’m just pacing around trying to kill time. Or no, I’m not trying to kill time, I’m trying to save time. I don’t want to leave.” He continued, “Thank you, thank you so much. I’ll be back.” And as “Rhinestone” ended with a smooth instrumental outro and the crowd excitedly chattered on the way out, I knew I wasn’t the only one who hoped he would be.

Contact Areyon Jolivette at [email protected].