The Benevento/Russo Duo, Alley Katz, Richmond, VA 1/25
Richmond, Virginia had its first opportunity recently to host the Benevento/Russo Duo to kick off their mid-winter tour. With a pleasing mixture of songs featured on their upcoming album (_Best Reason to Buy the Sun_, April 5 on Ropeadope), older material, and a few covers, the Duo showed yet again that they are masters of their domain. They began the night with "Becky," on the new album, an intrinsically complex and dissonant song that has recently become a favorite in their catalog. Next they moved into "Nine by Nine," another song off the new album.
The guys next played a selection from Brad Mehldau's disc Largo, entitled "Sabbath." (After the show and upon Marco's suggestion, I picked up this incredible disc featuring Matt Chamberlain on drums. The cd also includes a version Radiohead's "Paranoid Android," another song the Duo covers, as well as two Beatles songs.)
I have noticed in attending Duo shows that not only is the music groundbreaking and the shows unique, but that people feel a certain privilege attending their live performances. Imagine the feeling you get when you catch on to something quickly and ahead of others: it is a feeling of becoming a member of an underground club, feeling ahead of your time, and being a part of something so rich in value. Each performance has its own flavor, as Marco (Benevento) works the crowd with an inciting presence. And upon leaving at the end of the show, people go with the impression that they were a part of something BIG.
The crowd in Richmond was no exception to the pattern of hilarious performer/audience interaction at Duo shows. Duo-schooled individuals requested various songs, and the boys decided to grant the "Mephisto" request. This magnificent rendering of the song was followed by a yet-to-be-named new song featuring incredible noises. "Noise" usually carries with it a negative, unpleasing connotation; however, in this instance, noise refers to the unexpected and unfamiliar with very positive highlights. In fact, when Marco asked the audience for a good title suggestion for the tune, someone yelled out, "scary sh*t….on my balls!" which won great acclaim by fellow audience members as well as by the band. I think the band is seriously considering this choice as an option. Another option given by an audience member, "BBCFAK" or "Big Black Furry Creature from Alley Katz," was running close in second place at last checking.
Second set opened up with a frenzy of sounds and pleasant harmonies. In fact, the Duo played in such a fervor that mid-second song, "Scratchitti," Joe (Russo) broke his custom-made Istanbul cymbal. Showcasing his stunning professionalism as well as ingenuity, Joe continued playing, utilizing even the broken part to harness the sound he wanted. This ruckus then gave way to the next song, "Darts," featured on the same-titled live album from 2003. The only way coming to mind to describe this version is with "splotchy." Next, the guys went into a Combustible Edison tune called "Impact," which sounded very much like a Duo original. Finally, the Richmond crowd pleaded with the Duo in form of "woos" and applause to play more, so the Duo came back out and proceeded to play a Thelonius Monk tune, "Bye-Ya." They have been featuring this song as an evening-closer fairly frequently recently, and they showed at Alley Katz they have a firm grasp on the Monk. Marco asserted the band's position as unsupportive of underage drinking before the night ended, and everyone present made vows to see this band they next time they came to town.