Live Review: Brendan Benson, Oran Mor 17/10/09

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Johnny Brick gives the gig a massive 5/5

It was a case of ‘this won’t hurt’ from Benson, a modern musical medic whose panacea is the sound of power-pop guitars with love-worn lyrics. One of the most melodically-inclined songwriters in the Western World put in an effortless ninety minutes in the cavernous Oran Mor to a mature (and mostly female) audience, wooed by Benson’s contributions to the soundtracks of TV shows and movies alike.

Benson, who looks great for someone pushing forty, thanked Glasgow for welcoming him warmly to the UK in his first extended solo tour on these isles. The quality of his songwriting surpasses contemporaries with ease, powerful songs of affirmation and innocence speaking to an audience who whooped at every recognisable intro; indeed, the elated jumping that greeted ‘Tiny Spark’ was only met by the bellowing crowd who were word-perfect in the better-known songs. Always with a magic chord up his short-sleeved tee-shirt, most of fab new fourth record My Old Familiar Friend was given an airing, the highlights being the pummelling Weezer-goes-power-pop of ‘Don’t Wanna Talk’ and the melancholic sadness of ‘Garbage Day’. Barely pausing for a thank you, riff after riff resounded; songs from his first three records were well programmed so as to allow acoustic numbers like ‘Cold Hands’ and ‘Metarie’ to sit alongside crowd pleasers ‘Good To Me’ and new track ‘Borrow’. A bonus was a well-chosen cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Listen to her Heart’ dedicated to four awestruck girls in the front row, and sat well with Benson’s oeuvre.

Why every one of these was not a huge global hit is baffling, but all the better for those who have discovered it. “Racon-who?” he asked on alighting the stage; even without Jack White as an ally, Benson is sublime enough flying solo.

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