Ruel’s Free Time World Tour stopped at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom for two special shows on October 28, performing back-to-back with early and late shows on the same night, which also happened to be the eve of his 17th birthday.
The mind-blowing part of that statement isn’t even that Ruel has the vocal stamina to perform two separate hour-long sets within three hours. Rather, it’s that the Australian pop singer-songwriter, who has been an active singer since 2017, is only now cracking seventeen years old, yet has two EPs, a world tour, and over 300 million streams to show for it.
The night began at 7PM with Destiny Rogers as the opener, after fans had been waiting for hours in a line that wrapped around the corner of the block, to get into the venue as early as possible. Upon leaving the early show, fans had formed an even larger line for the “late” show, too, proving that Ruel’s young fanbase is among the most dedicated of any young star.
That fan love was echoed inside Bowery Ballroom’s walls, literally, with the crazed screams of lovestruck tweens hoping to get a glimpse of Ruel, who looks like a mashup between Nick Carter with Justin Bieber – he’s a heartthrob, and young fans know it.
Ruel sang all of his fan favorites throughout the night, and each song off of his latest Free Time EP, which includes hits like “Painkiller,” “Face To Face” along with the title track “Free Time.” Rather than exposing a voice that was less than stellar, Ruel’s voice held up incredibly live, sounding as good if not better than the recordings themselves. With no vocal backtrack, live keys and drums, and a trio of backup singers, the music was beautifully replicated and even “bigger” than the recordings proved.
Ruel owns a particularly singular brand of pop: modern ballads. They aren’t slow or down-tempo, but move along enough to never drag. They are soulful and genuine without ever being cheesy. They are fun without being party jams – they are able to put a big smile on your face and infectiously force you to sing along. The music is all of these things, and yet somehow still comes off as if he’s not straining to sing at any point. Ruel’s voice sits in a magical pocket of soul pop that only he could be known for.
Along with a voice that’s mature beyond his years, Ruel was a true professional on stage as well. Throughout the night he was perfectly comfortable moving around on stage, alternating between the free standing mic and his original mic stand based on the mood of the song.
Ruel freely engaged with fans, showed plenty of emotion and got the crowd involved and invested in being not just bystanders, but a part of the experience themselves. Whether it was splitting up the crowd to sing sections of a song’s chorus, or directing them to wave their phones in the air, he was a complete natural playing conductor to a willing crowd.
Overall, Ruel blew me away with his vocal prowess, engaging personality, and a live band that made the show as dynamic as it could be. At just seventeen years old, it’s clear that Ruel is one of the most promising young artists in pop, as he’s paving his own unique path with soulful modern ballads that set his music apart from the crowd.
You’re only going to hear more and more of Ruel as 2019 turns into 2020 and beyond, so get familiar, and make it out to a show here in the US if he’s coming to your town before the end of the Free Time Tour.