It's hard to believe it, but I've been going to Ben Lee shows since he was 15-years old. The first time I saw him was back in 1995 at New York's Knitting Factory. This skinny post-pubescent (barely) kid from Down Under masterfully (and confidently) plucked his six-string and sang about schoolyard crushes, pop queens, and his best friend - his guitar.
I've watched him mature over the years - his albums reflected his new worldliness as his bourgeounig career took him across the pond to America and beyond. Last year, I was even lucky enough to call him my friend and spend some quality time with him in LA when the Fader Label released his 4th solo album, Hey You, Yes You.
This week New West released his latest solo effort, Awake Is The New Sleep and I think Ben has finally grown into the pop star that he deserves to be. The songs are infectious, crowd-pleasing, (dare I say radio-friendly) and it was on glorious display this past Tuesday as he celebrated the album's release at The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip.
After years of playing mostly solo shows, and more recently with guitarist McGowan Southworth and long time-collaborator Lara Meyerratken, Ben opted for a big band sound at this show. They go by Ben Lee and The Disciples of Bliss, and it works to a spectacular degree. Lara's on keys, Ben on acoustic. There's also a guitarist, bass and of course, drums.
His bio on the New West website claims that he spent much of his youth sitting on the floor playing records - among them Fleetwood Mac's Rumors - not surprising when you listen to the authoritative bass-line and mesmerizing harmonies on "Gamble Everything for Love".
After a big finale on "Into The Dark", he looked at his band-mates and said "wow, that sounded professional." Well, it does. Don't be surprised to see Ben at an area near you sometime soon. Meantime, he's heading back on the road with Har Mar Superstar - check out the dates below.
Set List - Viper Room - 02.28.05:
"Gamble Everything For Love"
"Into The Dark"
"Ache 4 You"
"No Right Angles"
"No Room To Bleed"
"Nothing Much Happens"
"Matthew Modine" (Pony Up! Cover)
"Were All In This Together"
"Close Ive Come"
"Catch My Disease"
03.21.05 - Denver, CO (Bluebird Theatre)
03.22.05 - Salt Lake City, UT (Lo-Fi Café)
03.24.05 - San Francisco, CA (The Independent)
03.25.05 - Sacramento, CA (Boardwalk)
03.26.05 - Eugene, OR (John Henry's)
03.28.05 - Vancouver (Richards On Richards)
03.29.05 - Portland, OR (Dante's)
03.30.05 - Seattle, WA (Crocodile Café)
04.03.05 - Minneapolis, MN (First Avenue)
04.04.05 - Chicago, IL (Bottom Lounge)
04.05.05 - Madison, WI (Luther Blues)
04.06.05 - Lawrence, KS (Bottleneck)
04.07.05 - Cincinatti, OH (Top Café)
04.08.05 - Indianapolis, IN (Emerson Theatre)
04.09.05 - Columbus, OH (Newport Music Hall)
04.11.05 - Detroit, MI (Magic Stick)
04.13.05 - Boston, MA (Paradise)
04.14.05 - Burlington, VT (Metronome)
04.15.05 - Montreal (Main Hall)
04.16.05 - Toronto (Lee's Palace)
04.18.05 - Brooklyn, NY (Southpaw)
04.19.05 - New York, NY (Knitting Factory)
04.21.05 - Philadelphia, PA (Five Spot)
04.22.05 - Washington DC (Black Cat)
04.23.05 - Richmond, VA (The Canal Club)
04.24.05 - Nashville, TN (3rd & Lindsley)
04.27.05 - Birmingham, AL (Zydeco)
04.29.05 - Austin, TX (Stubb's)
04.30.05 - Dallas, TX (Gypsy Tea Room)
05.03.05 - Phoenix, AZ (Clubhouse)
05.05.05 - Los Angeles, CA (Troubadour)