I hung up the phone after a nearly two-hour catch up with one of my besties, sipped my wine, and weighed the pros and cons of going to see Brendan Benson at the 930 Club. I've seen him before, at the same venue in fact, and it was a great show. I had no real reason not to go, I just didn't really feel like heading out again, so I said to myself, shut up already and ride up there.
The house was sparse, but not empty, unlike last time when it was over-crowded even on the top level. Maybe last year he was able draw a bigger crowd from riding the coattails of The Raconteurs fame. Not that it matters, but I knew of Brendan Benson long before he paired up with Jack White. Which is more of the reason why I finally showed up on Wednesday night. When he played the 930 Club in December 2009 with Cory Chisel and others, the show was fun, exciting, happy even (considering all Mr. Benson ever sings about is heart ache). Hell, they even closed with a cover of American Girl! This time, backed by The Posies, I dare say, they seemed sluggish, sad, heavy-ended even. What is usually a poptastic set, was genuinely somber. It even seemed like the band was bored. It came as quite a surprise to me when halfway through the show Benson announced that it was being recorded live.
Could have fooled me...
That's not to say I didn't have a good time, I did. And Brendan played most of my favorites like "Garbage Day" and "Tiny Spark". There was just something significantly not-rocking about the vibe of the whole night - personal state of mind aside. Perhaps it was the addition of The Posies as the opening band and back up. I never have been enough of a Posies listener to call myself a fan, but I know they are a talented bunch (that much shines through the assortment of black clothing). Core members John Auer and Ken Stringfellow seemed to be having more fun playing Benson's songs than the lead himself was. Auer is a heavier rocker, and his sound seemed to overshadow Benson's to the point of distraction. Stringfellow is a great bass player, and a decent keyboardist, but during "Feel Like Taking You Home Now" he looked like a little kid learning to play the keyboard for the first time. Fingers jammed the keys in hefty strokes and his face looked down at the keys like some bad secretary.
Which is ironic because as a whole, they are a bunch of goof balls. I watched this terrible interview of them (only terrible because the girl asking questions was an idiot) in which they just joked around and seemed really comfortable together. When the interviewer asked them if they had anything else to say, Auers suggested she try the hummus. I mean, The Posies have been around for like 35 years and Benson seems like the kind of guy you'd just really like, despite his rigid outer shell. This kind of brotherly banter streamed through the show, which likely made the crowd feel more like they should have fun then sit and stare blankly through the melancholy. At one point as the round of band introductions took place, Stringfellow pointed out the tech guy who had been mightily handling the stage all night and said,
"And the tattooed fellow running around is Trent. Say hello Trent! Trent is the guy who plugs things in. Yeah, he's the plug-in guy." I was about three rows back at this point, feeling pretty good, so I smirked and shouted out into the expanse of the crowd, "That's what she said!" Whether or not the band heard me is neither here nor there, as I thought it was funny, and I got a few chuckles from the folks around me, and a hearty laugh from the gentleman directly to my right.
All in all, not my favorite performance, but like I said, I had a good time. I'd say 3 out of 5 stars. Actually, make that a 3.5... they did close the show with a cover of "September Gurls". RIP Alex Chiton.