Tommy Paxton-Beesley is the singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist behind River Tiber, one of 2016’s more impressive breakout acts. The Toronto artist self-released his debut full-length, Indigo, a fresh and intoxicating take on experimental trap and progressive R&B. On Tuesday night, River Tiber delivered his first New York City set courtesy of Red Bull Sound Select at Brooklyn’s House of Yes. The bill had Starchild & The New Romantic and River Tiber opening for D∆WN, the newest incarnation of ex-Danity Kane member Dawn Richard’s “underground” pop-R&B project.
Bryndon Cook (aka Starchild) performed his moody, 80s-indebted love songs solo. He donned a graceful, eccentric flare, made more apparent by his chest-baring ensemble. The crowd didn’t seem too enraptured, but when Starchild left his keyboard to saunter across the stage behind a microphone stand, he managed to cut above the anticipatory buzz of the crowd (about 85% of folks were there for D∆WN). Near the end of set he performed a fantastic cover of Porches‘ “Moods,” recently premiered on W Mag.
Positioned stage center, Tommy’s weapon of choice was an electric guitar. It was a bold, brilliant move. The music of River Tiber is sonically ambitious and instrumentally dynamic, so rather than attempt to replicate that same integrity by playing over house tracks, he made new arrangements out of familiar Tiber tunes. On tracks like the Pusha T-featuring “Illusions,” “Barcelona” (which he played lived for the first time ever Tuesday night) and “Gravity,” Tiber took a simple, stripped-down approach at tackling the music, allowing the agile soul of his rich voice to fill the room.
Tommy was absolutely comfortable performing for a crowd that clearly wasn’t too privy to his music, but by by midway through his set he’d gained the enthusiastic approval of many a D∆WN fan. He reached a kind of peak on “Let You Go,” and Indigo highlight “Acid Test,” where his vocals took unexpected melismatic turns and his guitar playing reached an intense, climactic solo. Chills all around. Fire everywhere.
D∆WN’s headlining set was fierce–she played with a live band and wore a very loud, full body spandex suit–but for all the backup dancers and bass and bright lights, she never quite surpassed the hype of River Tiber. Her set was the last date of a lengthy tour, possibly the last time they would perform material from her 2015 LP Blackheart. But D∆WN informed audiences that she’d be back performing new material from a new album in the fall. Set highlights: “Bombs,” “Calypso,” “Honest.”