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Brendan Benson- ABC2, Glasgow.

Most people who love music have a little bit of music snobbery in them. They like things small, exclusive, a little elitist and, most of all, things that no-one else knows about.

One of the artists who has pride of place in the pantheon of “I know someone great you don’t know” is Brendan Benson. How music with such a lovely mixture of melody and witty, touching lyrics has managed to pass so many people by is a constant source of wonder to most who have heard it, but, there’s the rub: very few have. In a very selfish way, most fans are very grateful for it.

So, you can imagine the disappointment when, in 2006, Brendan teamed up with his friend, the ubiquitous Jack White, to form one quarter of the inevitably huge Raconteurs. It seemed he would be lost forever, to the usual mob of johnny-come-latelys, who will no doubt bay for ‘Steady As She Goes’ ahead of ‘Tiny Spark’.

However, on hearing the newest album My Old, Familiar Friend, released last year, it was clear that he had lost none of his own distinctive style to his sojourn into the world of super-stardom, and this was displayed in the tiny ABC2 venue.

Brendon Benson ABC2 Glasgow

Brendon Benson ABC2 Glasgow

Making a relatively quick return to Glasgow, having last toured the UK in October to promote the new release, the show was downgraded from the much larger QMU with just one week’s notice. It is clear from the audience this is a fan’s gig, a notion reflected in the setlist – opening with three songs from second album Lapalco, here is a set without an agenda or promotional point to push.

Early sound issues – seemingly inevitable in Glasgow – are sorted during the opener “Folk Singer”, which is followed by a storming version of “Good to Me”. This pace continues for the first 5 or so songs, with barely a break or a word between to allow or acknowledge the audience’s warm reaction. This gives the first half of the show a rather clinical feel. It is only after picking up the acoustic guitar for the middle section of the set that Benson starts to relax and engage, and the rest of the set warms considerably, rattling through something of a greatest hits list (for those in the know, naturally).

Highlights include “Cross-eyed” and “I’m Blessed” from first album One Mississippi, and a slightly reworked version of Lapalco’s “You’re Quiet”. Songs from the latest album are few and far between, but those played include “Eyes on the Horizon” and “Poised and Ready”, which stands up very well to the more established material – clearly they have passed the test of earlier touring.

And so, it is pleasing to report that Brendan’s place on the list of hidden gems remains assured. It’s OK though, if he’s ever feeling a little under appreciated, he can always put his little top hat back on and return to the world of the Raconteurs, which hopefully means we get to keep his solo work all to ourselves for a little longer.

Photos © 2010 Chris Osborne, heatlightandnoise.com

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