Show Review: Andy Grammer with Ryan Star and Rachel Platten at Great American Music Hall, 1/15/2012

by Stacy Scales on January 16, 2012

Andy Grammer

Until recently, I barely knew the names Andy Grammer or Ryan Star.  Rachel Platten, however, was a name I knew – I’d just seen her open for the musically delicious Keaton Simons back in October.  Adorable, charming, and a catchy singer-songwriter, I made a mental note to review her set next time she came to the Bay Area.  Which is how I found myself researching the likes of Ryan Star and headliner Andy Grammer last week, in preparation for last night’s show at SF’s Great American Music Hall.  I knew a song or two from each guy (“Start a Fire” and “Breathe” from Mr. Star, and last year’s catchy hit “Keep Your Head Up” from Andy), all of which I liked enough to get excited to discover new tunes.  As it turned out, the show would exceed my expectations tenfold.

The show started promptly at 7:30 with Rachel Platten’s set, which opened with “53 Steps” from her album Be Here, followed by “You Don’t Have to Go,” after which she introduced herself.  Though she said she was from Boston (which Ryan Star would later dispute, as she’s now a New Yorker), she pleased the crowd by shouting “Go Niners!” Her next song, “Seven Weeks,” was featured in a film called The Good Guy but she said that her mom owns all the copies of it on DVD. After the motivating “Nothing Ever Happens,” she played a special tune just for California: a brilliant, cheerful, tongue-in-cheek cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice,” which always goes over well with the crowd. Her next song was a new one I’d never heard, which she later told me was called “Sound of the City,” and contains a line I adore: “if you listen then the city sings…” It just appeals to the city girl in me, and I can’t wait to buy it. Thankfully, she said it will be her next single, so I shouldn’t have long to wait. After introducing her fantastic drummer, “BFF” Craig Meyer, Rachel’s set concluded with current single “1000 Ships.”

The lovely Rachel Platten after her set

Frustrated with my inability to take any decent pictures from the floor, I moved up to the balcony for the rest of the night, and before long Ryan Star took to the stage, kicking off his set with the lead track from his latest album, 11:59, “Brand New Day.” After “Right Now,” he introduced his backup singer, Dallin Applebaum, who curtseyed to the crowd, which inspired Ryan to ask the crowd to curtsey, too. “All I saw was your head go as far to your crotch as possible,” he said to someone I couldn’t see. “Do your best figure skating move right now! Graceful, graceful…” It was fun to see him joking with the crowd, obviously comfortable in his own skin and having a good time. He also said that his “Price is Right dream comes true whenever people yell at me. I hear so many different things.”

Eventually, he began “Last Train Home,” followed by my personal favorite, “Breathe.” Before beginning the next song, he told the room that it was about “losing yourself and gettin’ crazy… like this kid right here. What’s your name?” When the kid answered Romy, Ryan quipped, “See? Even the name says fuck it!” and began to play his biggest hit to date, “Start a Fire.” His final song was a new one called “Stay a While,” and when he played a bit of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” at the end, the crowd went wild, ending his set on a particularly high note.

Ryan Star

When Andy Grammer came out to Coldplay’s “Paradise,” I’ll admit I was a bit taken aback by the volume level of the crowd’s cheer. He immediately began with his most recent single, the undeniably contagious “Fine by Me,” followed by “Love Love Love (Let You Go).” “I’m so in love with all of you guys,” he admitted to a happy crowd. He said that since this was his first headlining tour, he was excited to play big cities like San Francisco but wondered if anyone would show. After his next song, “Slow,” he sang a bit of B.o.B.’s “Airplanes” and the Fugees’ “Ready or Not,” and then talked about the musical term “pocket,” which he used to describe fitting in and clicking with a special someone in his next song, “The Pocket.” He beatboxed a bit in the middle of it, and the screams that ensued quickly reminded me of hearing Justin Timberlake do the same.

“Ladies” was next, a song he says he wrote about his mom – it’s a song about treating women right because they’re all someone’s sister, daughter, friend, and deserve to be respected. Next he played “Miss Me” from the keyboard, admitting that after a breakup, we all try to think of something smart to say, but sometimes all we find is “you’re gonna miss me!” The song that followed was one that he sort of wished had made his self-titled album, but he said that it was also cool because it gave him the chance to see who in the audience knows songs that are under the radar. The song, “Amazing,” is one of my favorites of the night. Before “Biggest Man in Los Angeles,” Andy told the crowd the story of the street performers in LA’s 3rd Street Promenade, calling it all “a big hustle,” describing a friendly competition that breaks out amid every kind of performer imaginable, all of whom are his friends. He began the next song by talking about dreams, saying “if you want to do something… go out and do it. I promise you’ll get it. Just go for it.” His point was not to let anyone talk you out of it or call you crazy, which lead to “Lunatic.”

Before beginning the next song, Andy insisted he wrote it with a friend who had a cool idea about the chorus, something about building a girl “without it being creepy.” They thought maybe it would be cool if it was a conversation between a soul and God before being sent to live in the world. He said, “it’s still a little demanding, but sweeter this way?” The song, “Build Me a Girl,” was well received, creepy or not, especially any time he got to the part about her having “a smile from California,” of course. After introducing the band, Andy introduced a brand new song, saying that life is stressful, and that it’s good to find relief wherever you can – sometimes with a special person. The song was called “Take Me Away.” One’s first headlining tour, Andy confessed, is like a “seventh birthday party” – you send out invites, and you hope everyone comes. Seeing that everyone had indeed showed up, he said “you’re all here and I freaking love you!” The crowd seemed to feel the same way.

Another thing Andy says is cool about headlining is having more time in your set…time to slow it down, which he began by musing, “why do you have to go through a bunch of shit to learn something or get what you want?” He got a little personal, speaking about the passing of his mother a few years back, which taught him to think about what people might be going through at any given time. He said it “learned him a lot,” and he played a song he wrote from the experience, “The Heavy and the Slow.” To lighten the mood a bit, Andy advised the crowd to be careful if you date a musician: if you make a mistake, they write about it. Even as you’re in the process of making said mistake, they’re already humming the tune. The moral? Don’t cross musicians. “You Should Know Better” made his point perfectly, and then he talked about driving in LA with an expired registration on his car. One day, as he pulled out of his driveway, he was pulled over by a “chick cop” almost immediately. She asked for his registration, which he told her she didn’t want to see. She had to give him a ticket, but asked about the equipment (guitar, keyboard) in the back, and he shamelessly told her he was a musician with a hit song on the radio. He sang a bit of the song, “Keep Your Head Up,” for her, which she admitted to knowing and loving, which of course was a seamless transition to the song itself, his last of the setlist for the evening, excluding his encore, a cover of Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”

Truth be told, I began this night with fairly minimal expectations. While I expected to have a good time, and I already knew I would enjoy Rachel, I just didn’t need much more than a great set from her. So, if by any chance I wasn’t into either of the other guys, it wouldn’t have been a huge letdown to me. As it turned out, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the night from start to finish. Ryan Star’s alternative rock sound was exactly the kind of thing I tend to naturally gravitate to, and Andy Grammer’s catchy pop was absolutely irresistible – he played almost every single song from his album, and I could have stayed and listened to still more. Until I get to see any of them again, I’m happy to have done my musicial “research” ahead of time, so I now have the tunes to enjoy in the meantime. (If you’d like to do the same, Ryan’s just released an EP for free. You can download it here.)

Stacy Scales

California native. Therapist. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginger Grant January 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I think Ryan Star’s backup singer’s name was Dylan Applebottom.

I was really blown away by their set – thanks for free download of the EP!


Ryanstarfan January 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Always fun to stumble upon a great review. Love Ryan Star and his band. Such an incredibly talented bunch. This tour is just with one band member – Dallin Applebaum. She has an amazing voice! Thanks for including the link to the new EP – The America! Love that it’s FREE!


Cait January 29, 2012 at 10:21 am

How long was the concert?


Stacy Scales January 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I think it was probably about 2.5 hours from Rachel’s start to Andy’s finish.


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