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Ryan Cabrera Still With Spikey Hair, Still Loveable

Jordan Gamble | Monday, November 16, 2009

Ryan Cabrera’s trademarked the poofy, spiky hair long before Edward Cullen’s liberal use of hair gel ever started to make girls swoon.
That’s just one of the things the 27-year-old hasn’t changed about his act. His crooning love songs are still catchy as hell even five years after they first became popular in 2004. The crowd at Legends on Saturday night knew all the words to songs like “40 Kinds of Sadness” and “Exit to Exit,” and a few pockets of exuberant fans started chanting for Cabrera’s biggest hit, “On the Way Down,” even before opening act Steve Asiala had left the stage.
Though he released a third album, “The Moon Under Water,” in 2008, Cabrera mostly stuck to songs off 2004’s “Take It All Away” and 2005’s “You Stand Watching” for his 45-minute set. But the short performance still had room for some surprises. Standing alone on the stage with just his guitar, Cabrera wasn’t afraid to experiment. During one song, he slipped in snippets from Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA,” Hanson’s “MMMBop” and even Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” He also took on a song from Josh Kelley, who he toured with this summer.
Even with Legends’ low stage and open floor, some performers have surprisingly managed to put up an aloof wall, proving distant and inaccessible despite the three-foot distance from the mic to the audience. It’d be easy to presume Cabrera would do the same – this is, after all, the guy who was a TRL mainstay a few years ago. (Other musicians have not been so congenial, either. Students may remember that Good Charlotte so graciously took time out of their 2008 performance in the JACC to complain about the one audience member’s “has-been” comment.)
Despite his early success as a pop heartthrob, his hair and his notoriety as Ashlee Simpson’s first boyfriend, Cabrera thrived in the small venue and intimate setting, and it’s obvious his music still attracts people. The early arrivals to Legends were almost exclusively female, but by the time Asiala was finishing up, a good number of guys had shown up. Some even held aloft signs saying “Marry me, Ry.” Cabrera laughed about the display, especially a few with more explicit requests (Legends security confiscated those ones).
From the start, Cabrera kept up crowd energy. His thumping guitar led to a few rounds of beat-keeping claps from the audience, and more than once he posed with the front row for a picture to go on his Twitter. After a few songs, he took off his jacket to reveal a Notre Dame T-shirt, which elicited a cheer from the floor. He was engaging, chatty and clearly singing his heart out on songs like “Shine On” and the much-anticipated “On the Way Down,” which he let go on for a few more choruses so the crowd could sing along.
People coming for a “Ryan Cabrera show at Legends” got exactly what they expected and then some: an energetic performer who was genuinely glad to be playing a fun, quick show.