Brendan Benson returned to a warmly welcoming Los Angeles last week in a push for his most recent release What Kind of World, bringing along some catalogue gems in the process.
The Raconteurs cofounder took to the Troubadour on Saturday after Nashville Bluegrass quartet The Howling Brothers (ten-gallon hats, banjo twang) opened and Young Hines followed, lubricating the lukewarm crowd with just enough sonic momentum to keep those in attendance in the moment. Los Angeles crowds have never been accused of showing excess enthusiasm for a performer, what with their gluten-free instagram worlds teetering in the balance of their last screenplay pitch and the risk of anyone seeing them showing any emotion beyond cynical cool, but they were obliging through the openers and on through the native Michigander headliner. And when he arrived, they treated him like a long-lost brother returning home.
Brendan Benson's approach is one of deceptive simplicity, a vagabond songspinner with enough tension to match the boyish charm in his grin. Hooks flowed strongly to keep the unfamiliar in attendance from tuning out during songs like "A Whole Lot Better," "What I'm Looking For" and new single "Bad For Me," while the gently contagious melancholy that laces even his more upbeat compositions enraptured the devoted. With a pop-tainted structure and storyteller's design, his songs often took flight in amplified choruses, particularly in the blues-frilled newer material.
The Raconteurs track "Hands" was a clear crowd favorite, and more than a few graceless spectators made quips about Benson's partner Jack White showing up for a few songs. But it was not to be, and rightfully so; the Third Man nucleus' arrival would've squashed out the lovely nuance of the night's performance and relegated the intimacy Benson was nurturing to a token character flare.
A remarkable guest did appear, however, during the show closer when ‘family member’ Carina Round made her way onstage. The British songstress and Puscifer touring partner was the perfect dollop of sweetness to finish off a night of excellent songmanship from an artist who seems, finally, perfectly content in his own skin.
Pick up What Kind of World and dig deeper into Brendan Benson's world at his official site.