Marco Benevento brought his road show of positive energy to Portland, Oregon’s Wonder Ballroom on April 8th, giving people a rousing performance, filled with that intangible thing we all seek in live music — a feeling of well-being.
Before Benevento and his bandmates took the stage, the audience was treated to the casual rock stylings of Wyndham. Their thoughtful, well-composed songs drew the crowd closer over the course of their short set. The band fed on that energy, gaining momentum and proving to be a good lead-in to the Benevento trio.
Marco Benevento took the stage with drummer Andy Borger and bassist Karina Rykman, all of whom were dressed in white, and got down to business. To kick things off, the band played an entire side of 2016’s The Story of Fred Short, an album that Benevento recorded and self-produced at his Woodstock, New York studio. From there the band worked through songs old and new, and always engaging. Benevento later plugged Woodstock Sessions, a 2016 release that was recorded in a single take at Applehead Recording in Woodstock, New York in front of a studio audience.
Benevento, on an upright piano wired with pedals and gizmos that help him morph his sound to his imaginings, serves as head musical alchemist. Borger (Tom Waits, Norah Jones) lends his ample drumming abilities to the mix, which offer stability but also shine with rhythmic flourishes that powerfully punctuate each composition.
The MVP award for this show, however, would likely go to Rykman. Hand-picked by Benevento’s long-time bassist Dave Dreiwitz to replace him while he tours with Ween, the 23-year-old Rykman obviously appreciated her opportunity to tour the world with Marco Benevento. Effusing a joy that could not be ignored, she made the most of the occasion, dropping bass bombs, dancing around the stage with an ear-to-ear grin and generally rocking the hell out.
The palette of sounds exuding from Benevento’s piano, paired with a rock-solid, dynamic rhythm section, made for high-powered, engaging musical explorations. Benevento continues to grow as a songwriter and bandleader, and the audience was more than happy to join him for this journey. New songs and old were all approached with the same enthusiasm and cohesion. Rykman played a solo from atop a speaker, then leapt off at its conclusion. Benevento took a similar journey to the top of his piano, delivering lyrics and then taking a leap. For an encore, Rykman handled lead vocals on the Butthole Surfers “Pepper” before the band closed things out with the anthemic dance-rock sing-along “At The Show.”
The sly smiles worn by the band members made one think that they were in on a secret. If they were, there was no attempt at keeping it. They were taking what brings them joy and fulfillment, and openly sharing it with those in attendance, wrapping the audience in a little cocoon of happiness, then encouraging us to bust out and fly away. Like them, letting inner beauty shine outward.