One of the things that gets me amped for a show is the opening act. We all go for the headliners, but we feel like we discover the opening acts. With a few exceptions, Bruce Springsteen doesn’t have an opening act and frankly he doesn’t need one. The Rolling Stones had U2 open for them, but they’re iconic rock bands. Wednesday, I went to see Brendan Benson at the Independent in San Francisco.
Brendan Benson of the Raconteurs, the Waxwings fame has a dynamic solo career on top of all that The guy has lived a thousand musical lives over the past two decades and has a following among music lovers. That was evident Wednesday when a packed house came out to see him bring his hard rocking style reminiscent of Sonic Youth and Pavement to “The City.”
They ran through their first six or seven songs in rapid succession. Like machine gun fire, one song would finish and the other would start right up. It was almost like one long coda. Benson stood up, gazing in to a crowd of mostly 30-40 somethings with his permed blond hair, plaid shirt, black jeans and wiry Iggy Pop-esque frame. He sang like a golden god even as he seemingly forgot the words to “Metarie.” It was then that the audience stood out as they deftly picked him up without missing a beat and carried the song until he remembered the lyrics.
While it was Benson I came to see, Young Hines stole the show. When I arrived I grabbed a beer, stood in my usual spot at the Indy and this guy in an Angus Young-style schoolboy hat, brown corduroy jacket, gray golf pants with a slick Epiphone guitar strapped across his chest took the stage. He started up there by himself, Mr. Young Hines, and started into “Voice Across the Water,” a beautiful song that captivated the audience. I was hooked as well, but more, I was intrigued. How had I never heard of this man?
Then Benson’s back-up band joined him on stage and they railed into some of the most phenomenal sounding music I’ve heard in quite some time. He busted out a megaphone, wrapped in tin foil and took a song with such a bayou, bluesy feel that I felt like I was back on the streets of New Orleans again. The bass was so deep I felt like my heart would stop and the drums so heavy it felt like the heavens would collapse with thunder at any moment. This was music of legendary proportions and he is merely on his debut he informed the crowd, though many needed no such information.
Brendan Benson produced Young Hines’ debut album, Give Me My Change, so perhaps some of the credit of the line-up should go to him. In retrospect, such a night of talented musicians seems to be commonplace at the Indy these days. However, even regulars of the Indy like myself had to be in awe of the show put on by one legend helping a future one.