Marco Benevento can best be described as a man who likes to keep himself busy. Perhaps best known as half of the Benevento Russo Duo, he has also gained prominence playing alongside notable musicians such as Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon as ¼ of the act GRAB, and has released several CD’s along with his own trio. So at a night that was billed as Marco Benevento on solo piano, it was no shocker that guests would emerge.
It was also a treat that this “solo” performance would occur at 92Y Tribeca – a performance space that opened late in 2008 that hosts screenings, many different types of stage performances, and of course live music; all in a very intimate setting conducive to interactions with the artists. Also, with a beer menu ranging from 3$ cans of PBR to 23 oz. bottles of Delirium Tremens you’ve got yourself a winner.
There has also been some buzz generating for the opening act, Superhuman Happiness, who have recently released their new EP “The Phyiscal,” which features several standout tracks. While they may not be a household name yet, members of this ensemble are better know for their work with acts such Antibalas, TV on the Radio, the Phenomenal Handclap Band, Passion Pit, and the Roots. The stage was packed upon entering promptly at 9 pm with 7 musicians and a countless numbers of instruments or other unexpected objects used to produce noises.“Needles & Pins” | Superhuman Happiness by Royal Potato Family
In a day and age when band names are usually determined by poor attempts at irony, inside jokes, or something that may look cool on merchandise, it’s refreshing to have a name so applicable to the sense you get when seeing these guys perform live. You get the sense that everybody on stage is truly enjoying themselves; instruments are traded and swapped throughout the night, but the main components were 2 guitars, a rhythmic bass, drums, trumpet, and a saxophone manned by bandleader Stuart Bogie (who also provides horns for Antibalas). Drums, tambourines, cowbells, and other noisemakers also sat in front of each musician providing additional layers of sound.
They played many of the songs off of their new EP which all were very well received from the crowd. Songs such as “Needles and Pins” have that ability to stay in your head for a good amount of time prompting many re-listens. It was also a treat to see them cover some more familiar material in their own funky and horn laden style with the Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.”
Despite Superhuman Happiness leaving the stage after an uplifting 90 minute set, spirits remained high as Marco Benevento came out on stage, solo as promised. It’s pretty amazing to see someone who played a show atMadisonSquareGardenin the same week, playing to an audience of maybe 100 people. He played some of his own material such as “Greenpoint” as a tribute to the not-so-distant neighborhood in Brooklyn, which everyone raised a PBR to. This man can work wonders on the keys; he had a grand piano with a keyboard and loop petals placed on top producing what certainly seemed like the sounds of more. “Atari” was another choice track showing off his dynamic set of skills on the keys.
Another observation from this night is thatBeneventois not a man of his word. After about 20 minutes into his solo set he was joined by a few friends – Dave Dreiwitz (Ween bassist) and Andy Borger (Norah Jones drummer) who are rather familiar withBenevento’s material from touring and recording with him on several occasions. A few of the older staple’s such as “Mephisto,” which has seen different versions in almost every outfit that we have seen the organist been in.
Towards the end of the set Benevento invited some newer friends up; bringing Superhuman Happiness back to the stage and allowing them to take the song duties. With crowd participation, a sing-a-long ensued as everybody provided the “La’s” integral in theCrosby, Stills, Nash, and Young classic “Our House.” That segued into The Madness track also titled “Our House” (differentiated by lack of “la’s” and aforementioned houses location in the middle of the street). As is the case with a completely spontaneous moment such as this, some flubs occurred in vocals and chord progressions, but it was obvious that everybody on stage was having an amazing time which fed back to the audience.
Nights such as this one at 92Y Tribeca are simply a good time to be had. The artists were all very comfortable on stage and felt free to play as they desired. If given the chance, go see Superhuman Happiness; they’re show is full of energy and will leave you with a smile. Not much more can be said about Marco Benevento; he is one of the most talented musicians on the keys and can play with just about anyone. To see him in such an intimate setting was truly a treat.
Words and photos from Jesse Zryb