William Ryan Key knows that he’ll always be recognized as “that guy from Yellowcard”. On his current headlining solo tour, he’s determined to make his new voice heard past 20 years of pop punk.
Key was joined on tour by Selfish Things and Cory Wells, alongside local opener Danielle Durack. These openers played beautifully to a slowly growing crowd, who swayed and shifted, waiting for Key to take the stage.
Right on schedule, the lights dimmed and Key, joined by keyboardist Patrick Heusinger, former Yellowcard bassist and current guitarist Josh Portman and Selfish Things drummer Jordan Trask, played through an instrumental intro that built into the set.
The group began the set softly, starting with songs from Key’s 2018 EP Thirteen. Between songs, Key shared tidbits of memories, stories behind his favorite songs and waxed poetic about the men sharing the stage with him on this tour. The audience was enraptured, with no one taking their eyes off the understated magnetism that Key embodied. They laughed after finding out that we have New Found Glory to thank for Key’s current solo career, after bringing him after Yellowcard’s dissolution.
Key also debuted material from his second EP, Virtue, released at the end of last year. Under the nearly inescapable umbrella of Yellowcard, Key took his cues from the parts of that sound that fit him the best, giving us tracks like “Downtown (Up North)” and “The Bowery”.
“We’re going to cover songs by a band named Yellowcard,” he informed the audience mid-set, adding that the selected songs were a few of his favorites that didn’t get much live time while the band was active. These songs turned out to include a softer, lower version of “Keeper” and “Fields and Fences” from Lift a Sail. He also added in fan favorites “Only One” and the classic “Ocean Avenue” as the audience sang softly along.
“This is what freedom feels like,” Key said laughing, after informing the audience that “Ocean Avenue” wouldn’t be the last song of the show anymore. He concluded his covers portion with a melancholy rendition of “Funeral” by Phoebe Bridgers.
To pick the mood up again, Key also told the rapt crowd that his first full-length album would be recorded this summer for release at the end of the year. In the meantime, he continued the set with a few more songs from his second EP.
Portman, Heusinger and Trask provided a richer dimension to Key’s typical acoustic set, with Heusinger assisting on incredible harmonies throughout. The group concluded the set with “No More No Less” and “Virtue”, both, Key explained, characterized the direction for his first album.
Key thanked the fans profusely, confessing his love of the vibe in Phoenix. After the set, fans in Yellowcard gear gathered to meet their hero, as he shook hands and took selfies, accepting the gratitude pouring from longtime supporters from every era of his time in music.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel