Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Dec 5th 2009 10:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
It turns out Benson's duet partner was opener Cory Chisel, not the famous White Stripe-turned-Raconteur-turned-Dead Weather-drummer, but White's absence hardly mattered. Benson does just fine on his own -- he'd been releasing records for a decade before the Raconteurs formed in 2005 -- and together with Chisel, he worked Petty's tune like the populist bar room sing-along it ought to be.
The encore capped a tuneful and energetic hour-long set that opened with 'A Whole Lot Better,' the lead track on Benson's latest, 'My Old, Familiar Friend.' That album title speaks volumes about the Michigan rocker's music -- a time-tested mixture of Beatles harmonies, Big Star charm, Cheap Trick muscle, and ELO songwriting expertise. Benson also nods to the Replacements, and with his poufy blond hair and flannel shirt, he looks as if he belongs in the rooftop photo on the cover of the Minneapolis band's album 'Let It Be.'
Plenty of great singers with similar influences have come before, and even if Benson has suffered their fate and smashed into the glass ceiling that, for whatever reason, prevents power-pop artists from going mainstream, he continues to do the genre proud.
On 'Good to Me,' one of Friday's highlights, Benson declared himself happy with his lot in life. His car's not a Caddy and his amp's not a Fender, but he gets plenty of mileage out of his Volvo and "beat-up Supro," thank you very much. Plus, he's got a girl that treats him right -- what more could he ask for?
Equally sincere was 'Me Just Purely,' a lovely acoustic ballad that found Benson apologizing for tour transgressions and assuring his girl he's headed home to rediscover his true self. It's the type of song Paul Westerberg might write, and even then, it would be more a cult favorite than radio smash.
Luckily Benson, like Westerberg, doesn't seem to need the success of a Tom Petty. Making a roomful of New Yorkers sing that great 'American Girl' refrain, "Make it last all night!" might just be enough.