After a day full of April Fool’s pranks, it was time to head to La Sala Rossa on St-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal where I had the pleasure of attending the performance of 25-year-old sensation Benjamin Booker. Fresh off the release of his debut self-titled album, playing at Lollapalooza, touring with Jack White, and being on David Letterman, expectations were high for this show and I was excited to experience it. Expectations can be the worst thing if they are not met, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that mine were met tenfold. I was blown away!
Before Benjamin Booker took the stage, we had the honor of hearing a solo set by Third Man Records recording artist Olivia Jean, who some may recognize from The Black Belles. Hailing from Nashville, Olivia Jean came on stage wearing a leather coat over her white and black striped top and red skirt. If looks could kill! She is not just a pretty gal from Nashville, she is one talented human being. She can write, play, and sing, and you can tell by her lyrics and her sound that she is very creative. Her album is delicious, however the live show was a bit generic if I must say. Let me explain: the talent level on stage was undeniable, but there was a lack on energy that couldn’t be ignored. They sounded and looked like professional recording artists, which is damn cool if you’re in a studio, but live I wanted to feel the energy which sadly I didn’t. The last two songs of her set had the energy I wish they would have had throughout. Her cover of Spaces’ “Female of a Species” was very cool, and they finished off with a solid performance of “Green Honeycreeper.”
After a quick break, it was time for Benjamin Booker to do his thing. He came out with a bottle of Jameson and a bottle of beer. Backed by drummer Max Norton and bassist Alex Spoto, he started his set with “Always Waiting,” and he immediately had the crowd mesmerized. This guy has so much raw talent, it oozes all over. He sings and plays guitar with so much passion you can’t help but feel like you are witnessing a legend in the making. His smooth, raspy voice was perfect as he played hits like “Old Hearts,” “Slow Coming,” and “Wicked Waters.” This was a unique show that you probably shouldn’t have missed. There were too many incredible moments to describe, but three stood out above the rest. The first was thanking Olivia Jean for opening the show and saying she is a better guitarist than him. He is one humble man. The second was how he got the crown to sing along on “Li’l Liza Jane,” a turn of the 20th century song. The third moment was the performance of his hit “Violent Shiver.” Throughout his 14-song set, Benjamin Booker mostly had his eyes closed as if he was feeling the music. It was a joy to watch, and made those moments when he did look at the crowd feel that much more special. The pure dynamic guitar skills were something out of this world. A true talent and someone to look out for, as they would say in Star Wars, the FORCE is STRONG in this one!
Written and Photographed by Eric Brisson Eric Brisson Photography