Beneveto/Russo Duo, Terrace Club, Princeton, NJ- 2/5
After a busy end of 2004 touring with Mike Gordon, the Benevento-Russo Duo picked up where they left off. Hitting the road and playing their unique brand of jazz/rock-fusion. They will finally get their first overseas exposure later this month opening up for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in Japan.
On this night, the Duo brought their music to the educated elite at The Terrace Club in Princeton. The Terrace Club is in fact not a club but the name of the organization that owns the house. It is one of Princeton University's famous eating clubs on campus, and their Saturday night party just happened to involve a concert. With kegs chilling in the basement and good tunes to ensue, The Terrace Club filled up nicely with about 250 college students. There was no stage for the concert, just an empty living room with the organs of Marco Benevento and drums of Joe Russo sitting in front of the fireplace. The equipment looked beat up from the relentless touring over the past two years, including a cymbal that has its far end half smashed off.
When the Duo finally hit the stage at approximately midnight, the whole party filtered in to check out exactly what was going on. The students were pleasantly surprised with what they heard. Playing mostly songs from their soon to be released album on Rope-a-Dope Records, Best Reason to Buy the Sun, the crowd cheered enthusiastically as The Duo pounded their instruments in bliss. They seemed to enjoy playing for some college students who really didn't know too much about them as a welcome change from the typical lackluster clubs. In between songs, Benevento would take sips from his beer that was poured into a pitcher as an impromptu cup for the night.
The first set included a nice rendition of "Becky," which has become my favorite Duo song to listen to. Every time Russo taps the drum machine and the back beat for the song starts, a chill goes up my spine. I was not disappointed as Benevento closed his eyes and let the music take over as he pounded away at his organ. The jam came to an end with Russo sprawled out over his drum set, hitting just the right combination on his cymbals.
The first set clocked in at a little bit over an hour and flowed with a few breaks between songs to promote their merchandise and introduce themselves to the room. The Duo was very accessible during the break, mingling with the crowd and enjoying a night to live the college lifestyle once again. After about a half hour of mingling with the local students, The Duo was ready to hit the stage for another set of music for the masses to behold.
As The Duo sat back down at their instruments to start the second set, Russo went through his usual stretch routine, to which some audience members yelled out "Stretch Armstrong." As they got settled in to the set, they played a brand new song that sent the crowd into space as Benevento spun a loop through his Wurlitzer. Then he went to work on his Moog synthesizer, taking their newest original to levels they only hoped to achieve.
During this set, Russo put on a drum clinic that left the crowd in awe. Even Benevento realized that Russo was on top of his game tonight. He let him take a few uninterrupted solos during "Four Sticks," originally by Led Zeppelin, while watching in awe shaking his head like the rest of the crowd. The song was named so because John Bonham played it with two sets of four sticks. Russo only needed one set of two sticks to make this cover sound remarkably close to the original.
During "Impact," the song took on a Looney Tunes theme as Russo played the Road Runner and Benevento took on the role of Wile E. Coyote. Benevento chased Russo faster and faster through his drummer beat. At one point during the jam, Russo stuck out in his tongue teasing Benevento. Then he proceeded to pound his drummers even faster than the time before.
Russo has developed a style all to his own, and when you listen to any song recorded with him behind the kit you know who is playing without having to ask (Just listen to Laverneus Cool Trio or Duo Buggin shows). His aggressive style is like a lion, attacking his drums like a predator. He has made his claim as an elite drummer, up there with the likes of Stanton Moore.
The second set came at the end when the Duo played three covers to close the show. The first of which was "Myxomatosis" by Radiohead, which they nailed perfectly. Thom Yorke would have been amazed if he had seen his elaborate production reproduced by just two musicians. The next song to be tackled was "Waltz No. 1" by Elliot Smith, which they gave a surprisingly upbeat rendition. The final cover and last song of the night was "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. When the song started blasting through the organ of Benevento, the crowd was at its peak of excitement. The song had everyone in the room excited to hear a song they knew.
Although the show was over and it was three in the morning, before the last song of the set Benevento proclaimed, "We're gonna hang out tonight! Are you guys ready to rock?," The Duo had already schooled the ivy leaguers in music, and seemingly they were ready to show them how to party until the sunrise as well.