Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Along with the yesterday's torrential downpour and violent thunder clatter came N'awlins singer and guitarist Benjamin Booker. It's been a long eight months since Booker graced Dallas with his presence, but boy, he made up for his absence. Booker's penchant for growling, blues-riddled garage rock precedes him — and thankfully, he is every bit the rock 'n' roller he is on his self-titled album during his live performances.
Appearing on the stage at Trees in blue jeans, a white Christopher Owens T-shirt (who played across the street at Club Dada at the same as Booker) and his trusty Epiphone guitar, Booker kicked off his set in a slightly awkward manner. Beginning with a faster-than-usual rendition of "Always Waiting" followed by "Chippewa" and "Old Hearts," it seemed, much like his last performance at Three Links, that it took a few songs for Booker to loosen up and hit his stride. But once that happened, there was no stopping him.
Booker's sound channels the rhythm and soul of Deep South blues — and also every high school punk band to ever exist. He's got a definitive youthful quality to his music, but the intensity and coarseness of his vocals emit feelings of someone who's lived long enough to make all of the right mistakes. He even took a moment to say he was honored to perform on the same stage that Nirvana once did.
Diving on into his own catalogue, Booker appeased the huddled masses by belting out "Violent Shiver," a track that hints at a battle with his personal demons, sobriety and regret. Booker's raspy punk verve is a refreshing spin on one of the oldest, most revered musical genres of all-time: the blues. And not only that, he's bridging a gap between younger music fans and some of the blues' great interpreters, from Blind Willie Johnson to T. Rex.
At some point during his set, Booker set his sights on learning how to say "badass" in Spanish, even calling upon a fan to join him on stage for an impromptu jam session he called "Yo Soy Chingón" ("I am a badass"). Booker continued his banter with the crowd, asking if anyone needed a beer. When the crowd responded in the affirmative, Booker instructed drummer Max Norton and bassist Alex Spoto to "jam" for a few minutes as he ran off-stage. Shortly thereafter, Booker bounded back onto the stage, clutching multiple Dale's Pale Ale tallboys to his chest, which he immediately dispersed amongst the crowd.
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Checking the time, Booker remembered he wanted to finish his set in time to catch the end of Owens', and assured the audience that his album was only 12-songs long, and at the end of his set, they could all go together to Club Dada.
That being said, Booker shot into fan-favorite "Have You Seen My Son?" followed by his infamously raw, jam-session-esque, reverb-heavy, "Spoon Out My Eyeballs," which was concluded by Booker's swift exit through the back door — presumably headed down the street, as promised.
Booker's rock star has been steadily in the ascendance for some time now, and there's really no sign of stopping. Could it have something to do with Dale's Pale Ale? Or perhaps mentor Jack White shared his magical guacamole recipe with him? However you slice it, Benjamin Booker is something new, something old and definitely full of the blues — and Dallas loved every minute of it.