Ben Lee @ Howler (with Danny Ross) – 2 Jul ’14

A rather eccentric persona was shared with the masses on the small screen via The Voice not too long ago. While still a little unconventional, Danny Ross appeared a far more diminutive figure on stage, imparting poetic storytelling and meticulous guitar work within dreamy sounds.

Thoughtful and rousing, the set moved from the delicacy of delivery to contemplating meaningful moments in life. Inspiration drawn from Radiohead’s Weird Fishes / Arpeggi, was shared despite its challenges in a live setting amid sharing enthusiasm for new material recorded. Even in its raw state, hearing words and sounds about transformation was enchanting.

On an evening where oddities and quirks were the convention, all round nice guy Ben Lee arrived to share a snapshot of material that had infiltrated the eardrums of many in the room over the years.

Playing shows just because, and with a songbook of lyrics in hand to counteract the prominence of the Frozen soundtrack in memory served a quick snapshot of the past from Begin and being drawn into the depths of Gamble Everything For Love.

And although So Hungry became reminiscent of a funeral dirge, it was the beginning of a flood of new songs – otherwise known as the old songs of the future.

Quirky and somewhat unexpected never seems to stray too far from the sounds of Ben Lee, but the latest ode to happiness was, well….happy. Very happy. In fact, without the context of seeing this live, anyone could have been forgiven for mistaking this for a little mash-up between the Wiggles and something from Playschool. It may take a little while to get heads and mouths around these lyrics but it was hard not to crack a big grin while listening.

Ben Lee @ Howler

Ben Lee @ Howler

 

“Is there anything anybody wants to hear?” opened the floodgates of shouts for requests. And in 2014 when the lyrics book failed, there was an iPhone on hand to look up the words for Birthday.

The xylophone creates one of the cheeriest sounds known to an eardrum, probably a near second to a ukulele and it was only fitting that it made an appearance. Still a questionable and perhaps unsettling inclusion in a new track celebrating mortality, but the shock and surprise may settle on that one.

But all was redeemed with all that followed including those unmistakable chords, a trip back in time to Cigarettes Will Kill You even without nostalgic tales of spur of the moment decisions in making the film clip 20 years ago.

Keeping everyone on their toes, a reappearance of that happy xylophone in a more fitting and repetitive chant of ‘That’s the way I like it’ in Catch My Disease lead to short intermission in lieu of encore awkwardness, soundtracked by a Wagner Overture for a transcendent musical experience. Yes, Wagner at a Ben Lee show – perhaps a little too obscure for the chattering folk.

But with Danny Ross joining Ben and the band again, a gorgeous tune with more mentions of Good Morning than would otherwise be heard at that time of night, but all resolved with a fitting end on a request for Into the Dark. Perhaps the nostalgia was overwhelming, or maybe it was just pure joy but the tunes were undeniably good live.

 

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