Benevento Russo Duo, Starr Hill Music Hall, Charlottesville, VA- 11/16
I left eastern VA for the promise of magic out west. Between home and my destination 2.5 hours away (Charlottesville, VA), I almost had to pull over rather than forge on through the kind of rain that’ll park you on the interstate. Coming through the other side, I found myself in a waterlogged land about 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the one I left. Not that it’s all that much of a feat that I made it through the torrent or planned for a little road trip, but I wouldn’t do it for just any band. I’m willing, whenever, for The Benevento Russo Duo: Marco Benevento on keys/organ/synth and Joe Russo on drum kit.
I first saw this two-man team opening for Galactic in Norfolk, VA’s NorVa Theatre, exactly one year and a week ago. I never fathomed that I could be so awed by just two musicians through an entire show, let alone a drum and keyboard setup. But, I’ve taken every opportunity I could to catch them again; The Jammys 2005 were most memorable, as they were playing with both Gordon and Lesh double bass!
The Duo creates ear piercing braids suitable for the caustic playbook of Sonic Youth and are as comfortable pulling direct jazz standards, teasing Duke Ellington’s “Take the A-Train” during their own “The Three Question Marks.” On top of that, they help other artists grow. Tonight they partnered with Richmond, VA artist Dave Klemencic, allowing him to produce colorful line art portraits of them, from scratch, which ran through his computer and were projected onto a backdrop behind the Duo. His impromptu art was a jam all its own and you can see more of his work by visiting www.daveklemencic.com.
The single set featured mostly tracks from The Duo’s studio disc, Best Reason to Buy the Sun. One of the better blocks, featuring tracks from the CD, was the run of “Sunny’s Song,” a steady rise with a crashing end, “Becky,” nonstop adrenaline, before a calming breath from “Welcome Red.” The Duo is also mixing in newer pieces. I’m looking forward to the evolution of “Soba,” while Russo on acoustic guitar during the campfire-ready Tennessee tribute, “Memphis,” makes for an intriguing mid-show diversion. The night’s only full cover was “Waltz No. 1” (Elliott Smith), which morphed directly out of a lengthy “9X9.”
“My Pet Goat” bid goodnight, before the team of musicians that sounds like a full band made its way over to the merch booth for a meet and greet session with excited fans. Take the opportunity while it’s available to see these guys now, while they can still meet and greet, allowing you to slap paws and offer your direct thanks. You need something new for your ears? This is it.