It was easy to see why Ryan Cabrera made the girls scream during his hour-plus set at Avalon on Monday night. He's got that shock of spiky hair, a bright bounce, and a flirty, self-deprecating humor that makes young ladies want to salve his insecurities after his rocky romance with Ashlee Simpson. While the venue wasn't quite full, his fans generated an arena's worth of enthusiastic shrieks.
Cabrera attacked his set, but his vocals were sometimes lost amid the mix of funk, pop, and jam-rock that his seven-piece band unleashed behind him. ''Our Story" had a luminous, saxophone-driven Stevie Wonder vibe, which was buried by 10 minutes of instrumental soloing. But on swooning ballads such as ''Fall Baby Fall," when Cabrera was backed by cello and guitar, a melancholy simplicity highlighted the sweetness of his voice.
The band's brawn was best employed in a cover of Paul Simon's ''You Can Call Me Al," which captured the song's joyous swing.
Cabrera and company finished their encore with a rousing version of ''Shine On," featuring blaring sax and funky guitar. And when Cabrera took over the drum kit at song's end, he played with enough flair to suggest he's got a fallback career in the wings. But judging by the volume of the screams, he won't need one any time soon.
Openers the Veronicas are a cute twin-sister duo from Australia who are getting loads of early hype. But they failed to really connect with the audience. The sisters sang much of their set while seated on tall chairs, flanked by two boys playing acoustic guitar. Although their vocals and harmonies were winning, many of their songs weren't strong enough for the stripped-down format. The crowd seemed to agree but rallied for the duo's first single, ''4ever," which closed their set. Singer-songwriter Michael Fordinal opened the night with a low-key set featuring finger-picked guitar and earnest vocals.