February 26, 2009

That Was The Show That Was: Ben Kweller | Somerville Theater

Ben Kweller live on this tour by Flickr user Eytonz, used under Creative Commons license
[PHOTO CREDIT: Eytonz @ Flickr | We are pleased to once again present to you the work of friend and former editor The Good Doctor. While he does not contribute often enough, The Good Doctor has previously graced these pages with reviews of a couple Yo La Tengo shows. He is a direct and opinionated writer in the best sense: below he deems a large group of strangers to be surprisingly homely, much to our amusement. -- Ed.]

I’m 41 and don’t do much of anything in part because I have a house and a little boy and a long-hours desk job, but mostly because I’ve done enough. I've seen a zillion bands and now I really just don’t care, except about a few artists -- and Ben Kweller is one of them.

So has my perspective been poisoned by Hollywood because now I stay home and watch attractive people in TV shows and movies –- or is the health of today’s modern show-goer in horrible distress? Or was it a phenomenon of this particular artist’s audience? Allow me to be blunt: are Ben Kweller fans hideous or what? If you were casting that scene in a movie where someone is accidentally drugged and everything they see gets all wiggly and everyone around them gets in their face, but it’s in slow motion, and the sound gets all slowed down, and they look a little bit like evil clowns but without make-up or hats –- that’s what the lobby at this show looked like. I couldn’t believe it. It was terrifying.

That aside, Mr. Kweller -- who hails from Austin, Texas, and got his start fronting a relatively inspired trio called Radish -- has so many great songs it’s ridiculous. He played tons of them Tuesday night, many newly arranged in the style of his fine new country-flavored release, Changing Horses, released Feb. 3. Kweller worked all of the evening’s guitar chores on an acoustic instrument, achieving heavy sounds when necessary aided by appropriate gear. A highlight of the 90-plus minute set was the new record’s “Gypsy Rose,” a deceptively simple folk number performed with a false ending before tearing into a throbbing coda during which I may have seen God. The set took a quiet and personal turn on “Thirteen,” during a brief but beautiful solo set at the piano. Kweller kept chatter between songs to a minimum, though an explanation as to why he felt a need to re-arrange “Sundress” to ruin what is arguably his finest hook would have been welcomed. -- The Good Doctor

Kweller's tour of the U.S. continues through March 7; in April he travels to Australia and in May he takes the show to Europe. All the dates are here.

Ben Kweller -- Hurtin' You -- Changing Horses
[right click and save as, with a hat tip to Stereogum, who first offered the tune in November]
[buy Ben Kweller records from Newbury Comics right here]

Ben Kweller: Internerds | MySpace | YouTubes | Flickr

No comments: