Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brendan Benson on the Roof 8/18/09

One day we will be able to talk about rooftop concerts without mentioning the Beatles legendary Let It Be show. That day isn’t today. The comparison turns out to be more appropriate than normal though, because last night’s rooftop artiste Brendan Benson clearly figures the Fab Four as a primary influence. He would sound like them too…if they hadn’t been very good.

To be fair, every one of the SPIN magazine employees and friends on that Manhattan roof had a great night (read the official take here). The elements – good weather, free beer - collaborated with Benson enough that had he performed a set of Barry Manilow covers, the experience would remain positive. They would have just not paid him too much attention.

Except, wait, they didn’t anyway. Audience chatter grew so loud at one point Brendan chastised the crowd. Fair enough, but the Wonder Bread-bland performance inspired little reverence. “Don't wanna talk now / Don't wanna know why / You say you're lonely / But baby so am I,” he sang in “Don’t Wanna Talk.” Lonely…or bored?

Anyone wondering whether songwriting prowess in The Raconteurs was divided evenly between Benson and Jack White, the answer stuck out like Brendan’s green thumb. The just-as-daft-as-it-sounds “Cold Hands (Warm Heart)” threatened to lull us into hypnosis and another song featured lyrics that may have been pilfered from Barney the Dinosaur’s “I love you, you love me” classic.

“Good To Me” proved the low set’s only high point and even that could have been more me than him; I was imagining the White Stripes cover the whole time. The three-piece band cruised along on autopilot, content to earn their paycheck without any unnecessary labor. The slightest energy would have upstaged Benson, so perhaps their immobility was a sign of respect.

Regardless, listening to a Brendan Benson CD as background music for the enjoyable rooftop gathering would have sufficed. Trying to force ourselves to pay attention to him proved an exercise in futility. Long, boring futility.

SET LIST
A Whole Lot Better

Eyes On the Horizon

Good to Me

Don't Wanna Talk

Cold Hands (Warm Heart) 

Tiny Spark

What I'm Looking For

Feel Like Taking You Home

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