Ben Kweller @ Paradise Rock Club – Oct. 16

I was that close.

Okay. So I am finally up after a night of singing-along and line dancing at the Paradise. Alright, I’m kidding. There was no line dancing, but there sure was a lot of Garth Brooks, “Thunder Rolls”, “Friends in Low Places” and such in the background before the show even started.

 

Now, if you live in Boston and go to concerts every now and then you know: people here don’t dance, don’t sing, don’t smile. It’s crazy to me, being from Brazil and all, that you would go to your favorite band’s show and wouldn’t want to, at least, smile. But yeah, that seems to be the standard indie audience behavior, specially if your ticket reads Museum of Fine Arts. Then my friend, you’re in for a great silent trip. Don’t dare showing emotions or else the next bearded guy will give you the look. You know. The Look.

 

against all Boston’s odds, people sang along

 

But good Lord, y’all, last night was different. A multi-colored plaid shirt-wearing, cowboy boot-strutting group of people sold-out the Paradise and made it feel like home. Don’t be fooled by the appearances though: you could still recognize the good ol’ Berklee student, with his black-framed Wayfarer-type reading glasses. Even the bearded guy was there. A little shy, in the back, drinking a PBR and trying to hide his copy of “How Ya Lookin’ Southbound?” in his back pocket.

 

 

Ben Kweller immersed himself in his true roots when writing his new stuff. On “Somehow”, the last and in my opinion most beautiful song in the EP, he says: “I got lost somewhere along the way / Oh, NYC is killing me”. The New York years definitely helped him build an identity as an artist, being influenced by friends from Ben Folds and Evan Dando to Albert Hammond Jr, opening for huge deal bands such as Death Cab and My Morning Jacket and leading him into the ultimate singer/songwriter growing move: the writing and recording of a whole album by himself: “Ben Kweller”.

 

Now, if the storm of influences fogged out young Kweller’s creative self, only time will tell. Critics were never too kind with the work he put out, but always made us hopeful that one day we could wake up to a grown-up artist who knew exactly where to go, and how to get there.

 

The release of the EP “How Ya Lookin’ Southbound? Comein..” marks the beginning of that trip. In the back of a truck, the destination was Austin, Texas, and the radio played Neil Young and yeah, Garth Brooks.

 

“eeeeha!”

 

Out of all Ben Kweller’s concerts I’ve ever seen last night’s was, by far, the best. The whole idea of bringing back his country roots to stage made complete sense and songs like “On My Way” and “Sundress” seemed to have always been written for the pedal steel. The setlist was a mix of all albums. He opened with “Fight” and closed with “Lizzy”. Strummed that guitar like no one else in “Penny On a Train Track” and “The Rules”. Kweller made people whisper along to “Thirteen” and yell “pa-pa-pa-pa” on “Falling” when he sat at the piano. Willie Mason’s “Waiter at the Station” is also a big part of the show. At this point, his fans made sure they knew the lyrics to that one, too.

 

Mr. Rich Hinman, pedal steel virtuoso.

 

 

 

At the end, Ben Kweller repeated once more how much he loves Boston and how meaningful the city is to him: this is where he met Liz ten years ago. With his family in the audience, he thanked and thanked and thanked the fans, who yelled back: “We love Dorian!”, his two-year old son, wearing gigantic ear muffs, watched the concert on his mom’s lap.

 

Looking forward to the January release of “Changing Horses”, that’s for sure.

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