There were a lot of lights at Ryan Leslie’s Bowery Ballroom shows, held on Tuesday and Wednesday in New York City. Yet the blinding effects were simply no match for the wattage of Ryan’s hyper set. Fans chose the set list as the newly independent artist (he recently split from Universal Motown), decked out in black, accompanied a five-piece band, back-up singers, and a voice vocoder during his performance.
R-Les started off by introducing “The Glory,” the first single from his third album Les Is More, on which he raps about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after his first two albums underperformed. “I flipped the switch and put that rock star in my show/ Went overseas and had them cop cars whipping slow/ They lookin’ for me, I was banned with a black band/ Eatin’ everybody in the game, Pac-Man,” he spit.
He dedicated the next hit, “Diamond Girl,” to the “talented, educated, independent, good looking, good cooking” women, who deserve “to be treated like the most precious stone in the universe.” The songs “Addiction” and “Is It Real Love” followed as Ryan removed his jacket and loosened up. But before he gave the best of his energy, he took time out to recognize Stevie Wonder, singing an intimate “You and I” while seated on a stool. He also pleased the crowd with “Valentine” and a new track called “Maybachs & Diamonds,” on which he was joined by Young Money affiliate Cory Gunz.
“Sometimes, you just don’t have the words to say, and in those times, it’s OK if you speak a little gibberish,” he announced before going into “Gibberish” and “Quicksand.” When he reached the climax of “How It Was Supposed To Be,” the passionate singer bounced from one side of the stage to the other. Ending the show on a high note, the fans couldn’t let Leslie go without getting the most of their $30. He succumbed to the name chants with an encore, also shouting out Denzel Washington, who was sitting up in the balcony. The Harvard grad proved his fan base is still solid, and that they can carry him into his bright future—with or without shades.