Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Local 506, Chapel Hill
December 12, 2009
First things first: Benji Hughes live is not Benji Hughes recorded.
After releasing his debut, double album “A Love Extreme” in 2008 to much critical praise, this Charlotte native’s electro-funk musings about sweet girls in tight tee shirts and the perils of eating too much Ecstasy at a Flaming Lips show almost seemed like a flash in the pan. But beyond the catchy, danceable beats and quick-witted commentary on the modern party scene, Hughes managed to capture a deep-seated sadness that lies just beneath the surface of all great pop songs. And it is this not-so-hidden melancholy, and a full band, that makes a Benji Hughes live show so damn entertaining.
Now don’t get me wrong. This past Saturday night’s show in Chapel Hill was not all ballads and heartbreak – despite the fact that he’s got some good ones (“Waiting For An Invitation” and “All You’ve Got To Do Is Fall In Love” immediately come to mind). No, there were plenty of party anthems (sans the programmed beats) and there was plenty of dancing. At this point I feel obligated to mention that every time I have seen Hughes live, at least one person in the crowd has jumped on stage and danced with him. Saturday night was no exception.
But live, Hughes is true a crooner. He takes the stage in his trademark sunglasses and holds the mic like he’s performing on an early 80’s episode of Soul Train. And he performs every song from his album that you want to hear. And there is guttural banter in between songs. And he chides his band for not jamming out more. And it is great. But even more so, it is fun.
Personally, I have come to enjoy the unreleased material Hughes does live more than the renditions of his album tracks. There’s one where he sings to an unknown female, “You’re a lot like a shooting star but you’re more like a falling rock.” There’s one where he instructs Kenny to “cut me out another line of cocaine.” These are the real jewels of the set. Blunt and beautiful. A calm before the storm. And then it’s back to an uber-danceable tune.
After the show, sitting at the 506 bar chatting with Hughes, I said, “I like the unreleased stuff you’re doing. Are you working on a new album?”
After a moment of thought and a sip of his drink, he responded, “I’m only 34.”
His response made me feel strangely happy. --Tommy Kurosawa
Benji Huges on facespace:
photo credits:Mimi Pneurotic