Monday, June 16, 2014

Ben Watt Brings Everything (but the Girl) to Joe's Pub

Went to see Ben Watt -- the less fair half of Everything But the Girl -- with my friend Allen on Thursday at Joe's Pub. Ben just released his first record since EBTG's 1999 sendoff, "Temperamental," and only his second solo album in total. To be honest, I really wasn't expecting much. The new release, "Hendra," is as sleepy as his one other solo release, 1983's "North Marine Drive," so I wasn't sure how it would come off live, especially with an audience likely full of rabid EBTG fans.

Well, much to our surprise, the show was a thrilling display of musicianship -- Suede guiatarist and "Hendra" collaborator Bernard Buter brings ou the best in Ben -- and emotion, with songs from the album that didn't really affect me much on my iPod taking on a new meaning when hearing the background on them. 

"Spring" and "Young Man's Game" were as thrilling as on the record, but "Matthew Arnold's Field" -- about scattering his father's ashes -- "Nathaniel" -- about a large tribute to a kid who had been killed in a car accident -- and "The Levels" -- written for the widow of Ben's half-sister, who very abruptly of lung cancer -- were just devastating live. (The introspective "Heart Is a Mirror" was somehow more effective live, too.) And that he threw in two songs from the early years -- including the stellar "North Marine Drive" title track -- and EBTG's favorites "The Road" and "25 December" made it a perfect night.


Adding icing to the cake was running into my friends Scooter LaForge and Johnny Rozsa, who were in the lobby waiting for the Penny Arcade show that followed. New York City -- there ain't a better small town in the world, kids. 

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