Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ben Lee, Live again

Monday night I was fortunate enough to see one of my favorite artists, Ben Lee, play live at the Paradise in Boston. I’ve seen him a bunch of times before (probably more times than I’ve seen any artist), and knew that as much as I like his albums, he’s always an even more enjoyable entertainer in person, and he didn’t disappoint with this performance.

Backing him up for most of the evening were members of the opening act, Low Vs. Diamond. I have to say that I was impressed with the fact that they did such a good job learning Ben’s songs, songs that were taken from throughout his deep catalog. He of course performed some songs from the new album (What's So Bad (About Feeling Good), I Love Pop Music, Yoko Ono, Boy With A Barbie) which, while not my favorite of his, is slowly growing on me, but also pulled tracks up from many older albums, including Ripe (Is This How Love's Supposed To Feel?, Numb), Awake Is the New Sleep (Catch My Disease, Debt Collectors), Breathing Tornados (Cigarettes Will Kill You, Ship My Body Home – which he closed the show with a ROCKING version of), and even his Away With the Pixies EP from 1995 (Shirtless - more on this later). In addition to his solo material, Ben played a few Noise Addict songs (the band he was in before going solo), including a few old ones as well as from an upcoming album that they’ll be releasing, as well as some new non-album songs that I hadn’t heard before. If you’ve heard the latest album, the second song, Surrender, is a song that he’s been playing for a while in his live shows (although he didn't play it this time), perhaps some of these new songs are similar and will appear sometime in the future.

There were a few highlights over the course of the evening. The first was a hilarious, improvisational number titled Daisy of Love (not at all connected to his song Daisy from Something To Remember Me By), an ode to the VH1 show of the same name as well as its red headed cousin, Rock Of Love. Ben introduced the song by announcing he had just seen his first full episode of the show and was touched by Daisy’s apparent vulnerability. Over the course of the song, which was emotionally powerful in all its highs and lows, the focus shifted to Brett Michaels and his Achilles Heal, diabetes, deftly revealed in the episode where he was riding in a dune buggy.

The other highlight occurred when, while performing sans band, Ben asked for requests from the audience, and a woman suggested Shirtless, from one of his first solo efforts, the Away With the Pixies EP. He admitted to forgetting the lyrics and had an audience member find them on their iPhone so he could sing along while playing his guitar.

Unfortunately, I don't have a recording of the show, but I can share a song (the one he opened with the night I saw him, a new one that I'm guessing the name of) or two (an Ataris cover that's quite amusing) and a link to a complete recording of a show from just last week with an almost identical set list. And if you haven't picked up the new record yet, shame on you! Ben needs your money - he just announced a few weeks ago that's he's going to be a dad!

Ben Lee - That's How It Goes : Live in Columbus, OH 5-15-09

Ben Lee - Ben Lee (Ataris cover) : : Live in Columbus, OH 5-15-09

Visit his website, his label New West Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

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