From the moment Ben stepped onstage with his own concert t-shirt on (modified into a sleeveless contraption of some sort) and shook that shaggy hair, we were off and flying. Although Ben plays all the instruments himself on his fine new album, that’s not gonna work so well live (unless you have one of those wearable accordion/harmonica/drum dealies with a cymbal on the side).
On the tour he’s got a tight backing band, and the show opened with “Penny On The Train Track” (love love love it), followed by a scorching rendition of “Run.” His new album sounds even better live, if that’s possible.
His mostly electric show worked through old songs and new, with a nice acoustic breather in the middle and a piano segment (during which he dedicated “Thirteen” to Liz and Dorian Kweller, the wifey and baby). Speaking of his baby, Ben was spotted out in the crowd during opening act Sam Roberts Band wearing little Dorian in a Baby Bjorn while the tot sported noise-blocking headphones. Start ‘em young, I say! It’s great to see Ben enjoying being a new daddy, and still managing to effortlessly rock his way through the haze of sleeplessness. In my opinion the man should reproduce boldly & repetitively because his tunes have only gotten richer through his growth as a husband and a father. I guess we’d have to see what his wife thinks of that idea.
I highly recommend catching Ben on one of his remaining stops this tour. He’s got a few more weeks of U.S. dates before rocking Europe. The set was nicely varied between older material (“Family Tree,” “Hospital Bed,” “Commerce, TX,” “Wasted & Ready”) and many tunes off the new album. Ben clearly enjoys what he is doing, and is an excellent songwriter — varying between classic slacker anthems, gorgeous love songs, and rockin’ the party riffs.
Check out this performance of “I Gotta Move,” definitely one of my favorite tracks on his new album — it was superb last night (sorry for the loud fuzzy spots on the audio, as usual):
After the show Ben very amicably greeted fans and chatted on cell phones to several elated folks who couldn’t make the show. He is very approachable and friendly, which is always refreshing. Later that night he helped take all my money (okay, like $4) in several rounds of the dice game Cee-Lo (named after our favorite Gnarls Barklian? or vice versa?). I was having a hard time getting the dice to land on the table. I was surprised how much trouble I was having, likely because I am retarded.
Fab musician, gambling whiz, and all along (if you note in the picture there) the new dad had a pacifier in his hand. Aah, the rock ‘n’ roll paterfamilias. Awesome.