05/09/13 Tulsa, OK Cain's Ballroom
05/10/13 St. Louis, MO Old Rock House
05/11/13 Columbia, MO The Blue Note
Nashville-based indie singer-songwriter Ben Rector embarks on a 32-date North American tour (Minneapolis is long sold out), with Austin’s Alpha Rev (“Sing Loud”) in tow as openers...…
As in, ‘Why’ isn’t the Nashville-based Rector a bigger known name and playing even bigger venues than his sold-out Varsity Theater show? Is it because he has taken the indie route and doesn't have a major label promotional push? Is it because he looks like an Assistant Professor of Anthropology with his bow tie, checked shirts, and earth-toned suits?
It ISN’T because of the songs-- because they are well-crafted and resonate with his followers; and would more than comfortably fit within with any AAA/Hot AC radio format (think Cities97 locally), in-between the likes of The Fray, John Mayer, Ben Folds, and Jack Johnson. His 83 min. performance, filled with stories and a personable affect with the audience, last Friday more than confirmed than Rector is ready for wider appeal.
‘Sing Loud’ predictably received a noisy favorable response and the set ended ably with ‘You Belong’ and a Texas blues/soul version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, which McPherson noted was his favorite song. The band is proving its chops as well in their marketing—from a wide selection of merchandise available for sale, to McPherson displaying a sign on stage with a phone number for fans to text to, for additional downloadable songs. Alpha Rev seems primed for wider appeal, and ‘Sing Loud’ may be the vehicle that propels them there.
Ben Rector played to an enthusiastic core younger audience that knew most of his lyrics and was also brave enough to bookend his set with cover versions by two of his biggest inspirations and influences. Opening with a loose version of Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets’, Rector then progressed easily into his own spry and uptempo ‘Moving Backwards’.
‘Never Gonna Let you Go’, ‘She Is’ (which starts with the emotional lyric; “she hates the sound that goodbyes make”) and ‘When a Heart Breaks’ followed, with Rector riffing impromptu lyrics covering how grateful he was to be playing to a full house and the local weather. The new ‘I Like You’ followed, Rector’s reaction to the fact that he said there were too many love songs (a few of them admittedly his own fault) and that there needed to be an alternative, though he did work in part of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ in to the song’s break as well…which may have deflated his point a little.
For the non-encore (Rector explains he doesn’t like the process of leaving the stage then returning, so they just stayed on), a spot-on version Billy Joel’s ‘Movin Out’ (which the crowd may have recognized more via the Broadway musical than Joel’s own) and his biggest hit to date, ‘White Dress’, which has also become a staple at weddings, dazzled the mostly female crowd. Rector has a new album due in July and judging from the reaction of the sold out crowd at his Varsity show, his popularity has nowhere to go but up.
Ben Rector at the Varsity Theater, Minneapolis (05/03/13)