Ryan Downey @ The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine, Saturday 17 April, 2021

As preparations take place behind the makeshift burgundy curtain that temporarily conceals The Bridge Hotel’s stage, punters scope out prime real estate. The curtain is eventually pulled back manually and then Monsieur Ryan Downey takes the stage with his three-piece backing band (with both drummer Jesse Glass and bassist Nicholas Roder also supplying sweet backing vocals).

He wears a form-fitting long-sleeved top – flesh-toned and covered in various prints, which could resemble tattoos from a distance – black tailored trousers, and smart shoes. Later in the show, Downey reveals the soles keep mysteriously coming off his shoes, which may or may not have something to do with his wild dancing.

Downey’s a total dreamboat, and his Bryan Ferry-level suave, deep baritone and charming lyricism (eg. “Hold me like you wanna hold me/ When it’s almost over…”) totally win us over this evening. His blazing guitar solo during Sors De Ma Tête (“A song written on a sleepless night in Paris, on tour”, the title of which translates to ‘Get Out Of My Head’) also demonstrates his accomplished playing style early on. He alternates between two mics: front and centre, and stage-right side, which seems to be the chosen one for swoon-worthy, lush harmonies and haunting whistling (during Patterns).

We’re treated to a set mostly composed of songs from Downey’s upcoming second album, A Ton Of Colours, and almost don’t recognise fan-favourite older track, Running, since a more fast-paced, muscular version is presented this evening: “Like maybe a few people you know during the lockdown period, it’s been working out a bit and it’s become a bit more ripped,” Downey jests.

Downey’s on the Negronis tonight and we delight in his wonderfully compulsive dance moves – part robot, part Beatnik – when he’s sans guitar, particularly during Edge Of U. Same Dream, Every Night is an out-there banger which is rewarded with enthusiastic applause, and Bobby’s dreamy “oo-ah” harmonies are luscious, evoking MGMT. Downey’s latest, beseeching single Contact closes the main set, but the Castlemaine massive are having none of it and cheer for an encore.

Downey returns to the stage solo and presents an astonishing cover of Ne Me Quitte Pas. We ache for Shirley Bassey’s version, but Downey’s crestfallen portrayal is right up there (no shit!). Every note wrenched from his guitar quivers with emotion, and he sings as if on the verge of tears; it’s intimate, heartfelt and oh-so chic. Downey is a true artiste, and one of a kind.