Ben Kweller @ Union Chapel
Going to church is always an odd experience for me. Not being a very religious person, my trips to religious buildings mainly stem from cubs, school or being dragged to them on family holidays. So it was with an unease that I stepped into Union Chapel to see the BK himself, Ben Kweller.
How unnecessary my trepidation was. Union Chapel was a gorgeous venue, all pillars, ornated stonework and stain glass windows. It was a pleasure to squeeze between the wooden pews to find a comfortable place to see the stage.
Ben kicked off proceedings with a track off his new album, Changing Horses, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and a rather rotund man playing slide guitar. It was a very countrified affair, in keep with the past couple of albums, and sounded old but electrified. Ben mixed up his set, playing songs off all his albums. Family Tree sat alongside Hospital Bed, Different But The Same next to In Other Words and Ben switched between guitar and piano with ease.
He also played a couple of covers. One was originally by Neil Young and was incredible and the other was by Willy Mason's parents and was even better. The acoustics in the church were amazing. Ben's vocals were so clear and sharp and the slight echoes off the domed ceiling served as backing singers. I have to say a word about Kit, the aforementioned slide guitarist. His guitar lines were the perfect accompaniment to Ben's sentimental melodies and were so good at times, he made Ben forget the lyrics.
The new tracks have a nostalgic feel to them. They take strong influence from Young, Springsteen, Petty to name a few but they fit well into his strong bundle of songs. Gypsy Rose and Sawdust Man are the best examples of the new album on show tonight.
The standard encore comes and while he doesn't give in to the pressure of some hecklers to do Lizzy, he plays a rousing version of Falling before ending on Penny On The Train Track, which sees Ben jumping around the stage, and its hard to see how he's been so overlooked in his career. Tonight's performance is intimate, tight and heart-warming and it's the closest to a religious experience I've had in a while.
Ben Kweller - Sawdust Man
Ben Kweller - Falling
Thanks to Steve for the photos. There's more of them on his flickr