I feel that over the next year or so, it’ll be hard for me to avoid slipping into the cliche “look how far Ben Sollee has come” rut when talking about his staggeringly great live shows in front of increasingly large audiences. Of course, me falling into the “remember when” pattern with Ben is kind of a laugh, given that it wasn’t until well after Learning to Bend that I realized how lucky Lexington was to have him. But I’ve learned. So have lots of others. And after seeing Ben’s performance at Memorial Coliseum, I know that this show wasn’t the culmination of years of work — I know that he’s at the start of something great.
Let me start by saying that there’s nothing about my record collection, iTunes library or general listening habits that would indicate a deep affinity for Ben’s music. I really don’t listen to anyone else who sounds remotely like him. But he’s such a great singer, songwriter and cellist that he’s pretty much irresistible. The other day I told a friend that Ben occupies this incredibly rare and mythical space where he fits in just as well with the NPR/Starbucks crowd as he does with the Bonnaroo bunch. If you strip “Mass Appeal” of its negative connotations, that’s Ben to a T.
So what of his Memorial Coliseum performance? It was easily the best I’ve seen Ben. Obviously it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen him with a band (BS, DMM + JJ or Ben and Daniel), but it was my first time seeing him with members that felt like his band. I didn’t write down their names, but his violinist/bassist and drummer were perfect. Ben must’ve known it too, since he couldn’t stop grinning at either of them.
It’s hard to say what material played the best. The new song “Electrified” sounded fantastic, but it’s really tough to discount Dear Companion standout “Try” and the always great Learning to Bend stuff. Really, that’s probably left to people who weren’t hearing these songs done live for the dozenth time. But I can say that everything was fantastic.
More photos after the break