Benjamin Booker Three Links, Dallas Friday, October 3, 2014
There's a man scalping tickets outside of the venue. A sold-out show can bring out that type of "entrepreneurial spirit." Yes, of course, scalpers pacing about, hollering about tickets with their deep voice ain't anything special. Nor is it a particularly new occurrence. But, this is Three Links we're talking about. This type of display, you expect it at a professional sporting event between two rivals. Not at a rock show where there's currently about 10 or so people inside. To wit: Hype can lead to a healthy dose of cognitive dissonance.
Hype is the sort of thing that packed Three Links Friday night like 250 Mentos crammed into a liter of Diet Coke, anxiously waiting for some type of explosive performance from the New Orleans by way of Tampa Bay 25-year-old wunderkind, Benjamin Booker.
Explosive is what was received.
Booker's set begins with urgency, diving straight into "Always Waiting," a quick and bluesy song that accurately readies the palate for what's to come. Booker and his band serve up an energetic performance full of raw soul marinated with a punk sensibility. He screams in parts and emphatically belts with raspy vocals moments later. He jumps with childlike enthusiasm while strumming his electric guitar, yet you can see pangs of melancholy wrinkle along his face.
Though, it didn't feel like Booker fully hit a sprint until a few songs in. Booker goes into "Kids Never Growing Older," a song that alternates between crooning during verses and fuzzy, heavy riffs during the chorus. Booker closes his eyes while singing the verses, taking in the bleakness of his words: "There's a less time to be free my friend/No one makes it out alive."
Next, perhaps because he feels as though he's earned it or because the character must be performed to a T, Booker asks his packed house if anyone has a cigarette and lights one up on stage while heading into "Falling Down Blues," a violin-laden, folksy cover of the 1920s blues guitarist, Walter "Furry" Lewis. During "Blues," Booker hops up and down and stomps and the crowd claps to a beat in unison.
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To close out the set, Booker plays "Spoon Out My Eyeballs," a song that builds and builds from a slow and serene number into an aggressive fireball. Here is the only overtly indulgent part of the show, but it's well earned. Booker channels the spirit of all the giants before him, ever so slightly: Such folks as Jimi Hendrix, Jack White and John Mayer when he cared about the electric blues. Booker leaves the crowd with a long instrumental guitar break with loud drums and fuzz and reverb. He leaves it ringing and exists the stage towards the patio as the crowd pleads for more. iPhones got whipped out to document the scene. They'll tell all of their friends through the power of JOSO (that is: Joy Of Showing Off) that they should have been there. And they'll be right.
To see someone like Benjamin Booker, whose star is quickly rising, at an intimate venue like Three Links is a pleasure. We've been down this road before, with Future Islands and Perfect Pussy and we'll be here again sooner than later. And again after that. And again after that. Ad infinitum.
Three Links is the place in Deep Ellum that brings along the hottest rock acts right when they're sizzling. Booker himself just recently released his self-titled debut album, has a few late-night television performances, got written about in the New York Times and opened for Blues rock's current king, Jack White.
The next time Booker comes into town, he'll probably be playing across the street at Trees. It'll be a fitting next step for a star on the rise.