By Lauren Hillery
Various artists - Future Soundtrack for America (Barsuk)
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Is he high, or is he just like that? I ponder this question every time he plays, and I believe the answer will remain a mystery.
But when it comes down to it, it’s Ben Kweller’s ability to make a bad day turn into a get-up-and-dance day that’s important.
And for me, his show, held Sunday night at City Limits, was the perfect cure for the back-to-school blues.
Although the intimate setting was much more inviting than his previous show at The Marquee Theater in Tempe, he seemed to lack the intensity he had before.
His attempt to duplicate the raw, explosive jam session on repeated closer “No Reason” was valiant but not quite up to par compared to the Marquee show—not to mention his lack of interaction with fellow band mates on stage.
My favorite live music moments come when a musician gives you a taste of who he or she is as a person and not just as a musician.
Quite frankly, this moment ruined the mood of one of my favorites, “Lizzy.” Kweller abruptly stopped the blusey intro to make a curfew- related comment to a front row audience member who was leaving. He then went on to admit that he was a freshman high school drop-out (explaining later that he did get his GED).
Kweller never waivers from solid vocal and musical delivery, but something was off with the sound that night. Either the vocals weren’t high enough or everything else was overbearingly loud, but Kweller’s rough yet melodic voice was almost always drowned out.
Kweller did a nice job of balancing new material with old, but I would personally have preferred more old. He even mixed it up with his unreleased but well-known cover of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” which he appropriately renamed “BK Baby.”
Despite technical problems, Kweller put on a unique and memorable show. He even played an old request from the front row, “Problems.” It’s quite refreshing to watch a musician who allows the audience to create some variety in the show.
But my biggest complaint goes out to the somewhat lifeless audience in attendance. Whatever happened to a little body movement?
It’s becoming rare to find a rock act that makes danceable music. Grab the person next to you and take advantage of the mood Kweller creates for you next time.
Not only is his music boogie-compatible, his lyrics are honest and simple. Kweller’s music is so simple it crosses over to brilliance. Whether it’s an acoustic ballad or a blasting, distorted rock melody, Kweller never ceases to deliver a fun and comforting package of solid music.