November 6, 2016

Concert #785 - Benmont Tench at McCabe's Guitar Shop (October 30, 2016)

I have to confess that a few months back, after having given Benmont's first solo album a good listen, I pushed it aside with no intention of ever playing it again. Not being impressed with his music is one thing, but having the chance to see someone of his stature at McCabe's was an entirely different matter, so I grabbed my ticket as fast as I could. Still, Sunday night, while driving to McCabe's, I was questioning the wisdom of my decision to attend and I even had thoughts of bailing out halfway through the show, just in case things got exceedingly boring.

Fast forward to the end of the concert, when I jumped up to my feet, along with everyone else. No, we weren't just being polite toward a deserving artist. We were simply responding to a great performance that, at least from my vantage point, came out of nowhere.

The Benmont Tench who performed Sunday night at McCabe's had little in common with the keyboard player I saw a couple of times in the 1980s alongside Tom Petty. Early in the show, he told the audience that he had performed solo here and there, but had never done a full solo concert, or - the way he put it - "I've never done this and I'm as confused as you are". I can't say that he looked intimidated up there on the stage, but I could certainly detect quite a bit of humility in his demeanor.

Benmont Tench at McCabe's

Benmont's set kicked off with the self-penned "Under The Starlight", a song that immediately grabbed my attention. Good songs came in quick succession, one after the other, and many of them were the very same numbers that failed to grab me when I first heard his album. "Veronica Said", "Wobbles", "Homesick", "Dallas Is A Damn Good Town To Leave", "Today I Took Your Picture Down" and "Welcome To Hell" sounded great and so did all his other songs. 

Supplementing his own material with a few covers, Benmont delivered a rousing boogie-woogie rendition of CSN's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", Bob Dylan's "Duquesne's Whistle" and "I Can Hear Music", a song most people first heard with the Beach Boys, but originally recorded by the Ronettes. 

To me, the highlight of the evening was "Corrina, Corrina", the traditional song reworked by Dylan in the early 60s, featuring Benmont's exquisite piano playing and expressive vocals. Indeed, Benmont is not a bad singer. His phrasing is good and there is feeling in his voice. Good diction, too, as every word can be heard loud and clear. And speaking of highlights: Benmont's piano playing was an absolute delight throughout the evening.

While playing seated at his grand piano for most of the evening, Benmont provided his own guitar accompaniment on a few songs, surprising everyone in the process. "You Should Be So Lucky" was one of those songs and it sounded great.

Benmont Tench at McCabe's

Contrary to my initial expectations, the show went on without ever losing momentum and today, almost one week after the show, Benmont's music still resonates in me. I will always remember this show as one of the finest I have ever attended at McCabe's. Will he ever play there again? I certainly hope so.

Benmont Tench thanking the McCabe's crowd
The stage
Accompanied by the ubiquitous Sean Watkins, a young and rather unknown Dominique Arciero opened the evening with an unconvincing set. 

Dominique Arciero at McCabe's

Concert Director Lincoln Myerson addressing the crowd

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