Manchester Soup Kitchen: 21-5-14
Oh my, oh my, oh my!
I do like to be pleasantly surprised my dears but nothing, I repeat nothing, could have prepared me for this. There I was, going about my business & getting on with my life in general, when my old mate Bob gave me a call & told me to get round to his place & to be bloody sharp about it!
'Ok' I thought, he'll probably be wanting to show me his latest purchase in the endless sea of gadgets which seem to be taking over his house.
After fighting my way past his mad slobbering dog, I found dear old Bob hovering over his computer with dark hollow eyes like a man who hasn't slept for days & a shaking finger poised over the play button on 'Youtube'.
'LISTEN TO THIS' he roared. Well who am I to argue? I listened & I watched. Who is it? I asked, some guy goes by the name of Benjamin Booker he said. Well he sounds bloody good quoth I (quick with the repertoire) is he playing any dates? Manchester in two days. Ok then, we're going & that's settled!
Cutting the longest of stories short, Bob & I found our way across the Pennines & into Manchesters' Soup Kitchen, having a swift libation at the bar prior to braving our way into the dungeon like darkness of the cellar bar where unbeknownst to us we were mere minutes away from having what can only be described as a near religious experience!
I recall feeling a little deflated as there was no lighting rig, just a couple of dim spots. Lucky for me I'd packed the 35mm 1.4 lens & decided to do the best I could under the circumstances.
The flaky painted brick walls of the Soup Kitchen cellar bar cast a coolness over the sparsely populated room. Bob & I were starting to feel a good vibe, a kind of anticipation of what was to come.
Having no prior knowledge of Benjamin Booker, I was quite surprised to see that they were a two piece band, of course comparisons to another rather successful two piece of recent times will no doubt be thrown in their direction. But please let all comparisons end right here.
Two well mannered, unassuming young guys, hailing from New Orleans who were very amiable towards anyone who came along to chat, became something of a behemoth when one picked up his guitar & the other perched himself at his drums. The transformation was almost magical! 'Tis surely alchemy, when one can fill another with awe & wonder.
Bob & I are hard bitten old souls who've witnessed many bands & shows & you begin to think you've seen it all but never have I been so moved. This was intense, like a knife fight in a phone booth!
Benjamin Booker attacks his instrument like his life depends on it, he sings with a vocal rasp, paint stripper raw, which lies somewhere between a young Paul Westerberg & a present day Jim Jones. Wonderful to see someone so lost in his own performance, baring heart & soul to the world through a neanderthal, blues infused Rock'n'Roll.
If ever a young man had the world at his feet then this is he. He has the good looks & dazzling smile which can break hearts & moisten gussets in equal measure with nought but a sideways glance!
The other half of this dynamic duo is powerhouse drummer (& fellow rangefinder aficionado) Max Norton & boy; if two people ever complemented each other on a stage, then this is they. With his rolling thunder style of drumming the sound is filled out to perfection on the faster more raucous numbers. Hey, those drums ain't there to be tickled!
It's on the more mellow songs where Benjamin comes into his own. Here is a cat who appears to be carried off to another dimension, totally oblivious to his surroundings & believe me my fluffy little cherubs, it really is something to behold '& let no man put asunder'.
So it was with a song in our heart & a spring in our step, that Bob & I wandered off into the Manchester night after we bade our fond farewells, for we both knew we had witnessed something quite special. In the years to come, the sixty or so enlightened souls who were present here on this night, will be able to impress people at parties by telling eager, doe-eyed listeners how they saw Benjamin Booker at the Manchester Soup Kitchen.
Me, I wanna tell the whole world about it right now!!
Here is knowledge my fluffy little chickens; not being one to wish my life away, the date 19th August 2014 cannot come soon enough. Why, do I hear you ask? Why? Why that is the release date of the debut album from Benjamin Booker. If any of you fine upstanding individuals have any modicum of common sense & taste (& I know you do because you are reading this 'ere blog right now) then you will follow this link & pre-order the album without a moments hesitation!
Just copy & paste it kids & while you're about it, you'd better hang onto your hats because this could turn out to be one hell of a ride!!