New Music \

Brendan Benson Rocks the SPIN Rooftop

The power pop maestro heads up to the roof for a sterling set.

By: Dan Cook // August 20, 2009

Coinciding with the release of My Old, Familiar Friend, Brendan Benson’s first solo album in four years, the erstwhile Raconteur took to the rooftop of SPIN’s New York City offices Tuesday evening, offering a mini-batch of ebullient power-pop rockers to friends, fans, and SPIN employees.

The latest edition of our SPINhouse Live concert series, presented by Newcastle Brown Ale and Onitsuka Tiger, was the first to be held in the open air, five stories up from the Manhattan streets, and the ambiance did not go unnoticed: “It’s nice that it’s cooling down a little bit,” Benson quipped, pausing to take in a welcome breeze, “and it’s good to be above all the smells.”

The evening’s lively, carefree vibe persisted throughout the Nashvillean’s eight-song set, as the audience swayed and head-bobbed their way through new material like the “A Whole Lot Better” (featuring an Elvis Costello-approved synth riff) and the infectious gem “Tiny Spark,” from 2002’s Lapalco,which begged for a group sing-along.

Benson was charmingly mellow during the show, sipping on wine between songs and staying calm during an early guitar malfunction.

Equally chill was his excellent new touring lineup: Ben Folds’ bassist Jared Reynolds, Cardinals’ drummer Brad Pemberton, and Raconteurs tour-mate Mark Watrous. Watrous managed to pull triple-duty, juggling guitar, keyboard, and singing, while Pemberton and Reynolds carried the rhythm section with steady-but-stylish precision (even lending a bit of bounce to the brisk rock-pop of “Eyes on the Horizon”).

When the final song, “Feel Like Taking You Home,” rolled around it felt like the perfect ending. Except nobody was ready to go home yet.

Set List:
A Whole Lot Better
Eyes On the Horizon
Good to Me
Don’t Wanna Talk (Download)
Cold Hands (Warm Heart)
Tiny Spark
What I’m Looking For
Feel Like Taking You Home