Marco Benevento and his dynamite band showed up at the good ol' Beachland on Friday — his "home away from home," he says — and threw down a fine two-setter that showcased their new songs and, ipso facto, Marco's foray into singing.
First off, if you're unfamiliar with the New York pianist and his spot in the family tree of 1990s/2000s jam and experimental music scenes, you should fix that. The aforementioned new album, Swift, is as nice a place to start as any. See the video for "Witches of Ulster" here.
The band's first set mixed new songs with old, giving the audience a bit of a through-the-years sense of Benevento's sound. The addition of vocals — beyond the random whoops and hollers that blessedly still remain — gives his show perhaps more of a message. Benevento's music has always been rooted in fun storytelling (his circuit-bent musicianship almost feels like vocal work at times), but he's got some stuff to say. "Eye to Eye" was a notable first-set highlight in that regard.
Bassist Dave Dreiwitz and drummer Andy Borger have never sounded better, by the way, with each musician getting some time to go nuts with a solo or lead the whole band into off-script terra incognita. Borger was strapping things like old pill bottles and aluminum bottle caps to his hi-hat, which produced a nifty sound. Dreiwitz led the band into classically frenzied territory in "Limbs of a Pine," which remains one of the band's strongest and most intense songs live.
The brooding and aforementioned "Witches of Ulster" played well as an incredible late-second set groove. (You really should check out that video linked above.) Benevento launched into a version of The Knife's "Heartbeats" that could shake mountains before closing out the show with "At the Show" and a fine David Bowie cover in the encore slot.
In sum, to get to the point, Marco Benevento is an outlaw among pianists and a reputable member of multiple experimental branches of the jam band world. He's a crowd pleaser, too, and the fans that packed into the Tavern on Friday — some new, some old — know that he treats his music with respect. Dude is not to be missed next time he comes around, Cleveland.