At the House of Blues, Rich Brian continues to mature his sound, with compelling results

Rich Brian

October 11, 2019 at House of Blues

When Rich Brian took the stage on Friday night, he had the entire audience on their feet ( it was standing room only) and with their hands up (that part was voluntarily). When I first saw Rich Brian in Berlin at a small club, he erupted onto the stage to make sure everyone was lively participating in the show while keeping himself the most animated person in the venue. In the last two years, not much has changed.

Rich Brian performs at the House of Blues. Photo by Ian Dobbins for WRBB.

Rich Brian (the stage name of Brian Imanuel Soewarno) turned 20 last month, and he’s been putting out music for the last 3 years, making him somewhat of a teen sensation. Within the last two years, he’s released two albums and dozens of singles, helping him move from a viral meme to an established voice in the game. His debut album, Amen, showed us that he could write more than songs just made to be bumped and forgotten with songs like “Cold,” ”Introvert,” and “Glow Like Dat.” On his sophomore album, The Sailor, Rich Brian expands his sound like he’s already jumped ahead to his Sgt. Pepper. The departure from the tone of his last album marks an already compelling shift in his career. He’s expanded his style with interludes, spoken word, and wide array of new instruments, and, very noticeably, singing lessons. Piano ballads, instrumentals, and catchy beats litter the album and set the tone for a quickly maturing young artist who is not ready to be defined by his past.

You would expect nothing less from the wunderkind, since his story is just as impressive. Rich Brian was homeschooled, and spent most of his time working part time in his parents’ café. He discovered YouTube by looking up how to solve a Rubik’s cube, which lead him first to sketch comedy, and then to rap. Having grown up in Jakarta and only being taught Indonesian by his parents, he learned English by listening to Childish Gambino and Tyler, the Creator, and began making his own music once he was introduced to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.” The comedic tone and playful beats can clearly be heard as an influence in Brian’s earlier discography, but he was quick to move on to more serious songs. The self-taught prodigy has never slowed down, and now spends his time in his latest endeavor, painting portraits of his dogs, when he’s not selling out venues of course.

The opener, August 08, is signed to the same label as Rich Brian, 88rising. The label tours together and records together, most notably on the track ‘Midsummer Madness.’ This closeness was felt throughout the night, as the performers introduced each other with affection and trust.

The entire show was electric, with Rich Brian humbly thanking the audience and moving across the stage with his goofy dance moves. He was charming, witty, and the dorkiest person there, but still remained the center of attention. Both his throwbacks and his new stuff were equally praised by fans (since only a couple years separate them) and he spent the whole night smiling while ‘taking requests’ (if you can do that in a venue as big as the House of Blues).

Rich Brian spent the night going from dynamic bangers, like “100 Degrees” and “Rapappapa,” to tracks like “Drive Safe,” a sappy favorite of mine that got the whole crowd waving their digital lighters. He took the opportunity to reflect on his journey, telling the audience how it was only a few years ago when he was just making beats on a laptop, being too afraid to talk to girls, and spending his free time in the depths of YouTube. He ended his spiel with a call for anyone out there thinking about pursuing anything to just go and do it. However far fetched it may seem, following your dreams might have you performing at the House of Blues in a couple years.

All photos by Ian Dobbins

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