Went on a date last night. It was with the wife, don’t worry. We were kidless for the evening and went down to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica for dinner (P.F. Chang’s) and other romantic stuff like each spending too much money on sunglasses and finally getting my Fossil watch fixed. We had some coffee and headed into L.A. for a concert featuring Ben Lee, Rufus Wainwright and Ben Folds.
Ben Lee possesses such genuine sincerity and intelligence that it is contagious, not only is it exposed through his stage persona and stripped down poetic melodies, but it carries over, infecting a hip L.A. crowd with a plague of innocence and decency. When the young Aussie jumped from the stage and played his guitar within the throng of sing-along fans he was not mauled and groped, but rather the enlightened mass parted and let the artist stroll through them exchanging smiles and quiet words.
Ben Lee made many fans last night, as I’m sure he does every show. The final touch was his presence at the merchandise table where I went between sets to buy some stuff. I decided to purchase his CD and he gladly signed it for me, exchanging a handshake and a few words of polite conversation with such honesty that I felt he truly appreciated my praise (and of course purchase) of his talent. Check out his blog @ http://www.ben-lee.com/blog.htm (please note that people actually respond to his comments- novel concept).
Rufus Wainwright. Oh Rufus, where do I start with thee? The show was brilliant, which I’m sure you would be the first to acknowledge.
You see, gentle reader, the flamboyant Mr. Wainwright has a tongue-in-cheek (and other places) way of pointing out his own praises, and who could blame him really? His breath-laden voice is haunting and distinctive, and his music is an ironic and iconic mesh of poetry and pop culture. I have seen his music labeled “cabaret” by such sites as Musicmatch.com, and I can see their point- there is a piano and there is the drama, but, when we saw him last night his set was divided equally between ballads, Rufus Rock and self-proclaimed country music.
Like Ben Lee before him Rufus played to what I would assume to be a very liberal crowd (I said they were smart didn’t I?) and made a plea for everyone despite sexual orientation or religious beliefs to “do something, I don’t know what” against the wrong being spread by our government. “We’re fucked. What the government is doing is anti-christian. I said that in Tulsa, the bible belt.” was how he pleaded for our assistance in doing “something”. While his delivery lacked the subtleness of either of the Bens on social commentary, it was perhaps his lack of polish, or answers for that matter, that made his concern that much more legitimate. http://rufuswainwright.com/default.asp
Ben Folds kicks ass. He is funny and smart and it is easy to confuse the two. His brand of “Cheers music” is filled with slivers of genius and boatloads of heart. Not only did he sing many of the songs off of his new album, but he played the mandatory and much appreciated “Brick”, as well as doing a fine version of Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit” which ended with his cue to the 3,000 plus audience, “all the children sing” and we did as one voice, “bitches can’t hang with the streets” in a sing-song swaying of humor and beauty. He also called back to the stage Rufus Wainwright for one of the best covers I have ever heard, a duet of Wham’s “Careless Whisper”. Ben’s songs were loud and full of power, or they were even more powerful in the nakedness of their quiet and solitude. When he sang from the soul with nothing but his piano to hold him up you could have heard a pin drop whenever a pause occurred. I’m sure that on one occasion I even heard people crying.
The only complaint is that we wanted more. Tricia and I were both denied the songs we wanted to hear most, “Underground” for me, and “The Luckiest” for her. Regardless, the show was fantastic and if Ben Folds unfolds (man, that was corny) in your area then please check him out. http://benfolds.com/