Seventy-two. If your first reaction is "Goddamn, how many fucking articles can State of Mind write that mention Marco Benevento?" -- the answer is 72. Well, actually this makes it 73. I guess sometimes those collective literary boners just don't want to go down. And usually Benevento puts enough of a unique mark on each of his performances that mass absorption of them is valid. This night at the Doug Fir however, the ring of redundancy seemed to slightly permeate the air.
Now don't get me wrong, the performance was spectacular. There's a reason the digital pages of S.O.M. are fully stuck together with ecstatic residue of Marco pop-offs -- the mop-topped ivory pounder is a wizard on the keys. His technical skills have only grown tighter over the years, and when he dug into his solos this night he cast a still awe upon the crowd as they basked in his expressionist technique. That being said, his current leap into the deep end of electro-indie-dance-pop doesn't seem to as of yet found a way to fully acclimate to the other half of his persona. When he would dig into his darker, jazz-askew cuts, his Brubeck-like attack of the solos would breathe an essence of creepy fluidity -- like you could sense David Lynch pointing a camera over your shoulder, onto his piano, and then spiraling back into the center of your eye. But when the dance-party songs break in, it suddenly feels like all the lights are turned on and any sense of mystery is lost. I feel his performance could be untouchable if he could figure out how to transcend that boundary between his two selves.
For some in the crowd, his choice of covers may have served as the ideal bridge I speak of -- serving as a gateway between his jazz and pop alter egos. I however, (speaking of the redundancy I referred to earlier,) recognized them as the exact same covers he performed in this exact same room a year ago. Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good," The Knife's "Heartbeats," Pink Floyd's "Fearless": the novelty that they once held was lost their second go-around. In fact, the only thing that really distinguished this show from last year's was the inclusion of the newer track, "Limbs of a Pine." And frankly, playing along to a pre-recorded vocal track just felt like a disheartening shelving of his true talent. Is this just a case of going too deep with an artist you respect? Has my own fascination with Benevento led me down an overly-analytical path? Probably. Sure. But Marco is an artist that has the power to go far out into the ethereal realm, and I fear his drawing need to appeal to a more simplistic and less demanding, younger crowd.
So with all that being said, did I have a great time? Of course I fucking did. Will I go see him the very next opportunity I get? Again, of course. The variations in the lineup do always add an extra spark -- Ween's Dave Dreiwitz is a powerhouse, rock backbone as compared to the more technically savvy Reed Mathis who was on bass a year ago. Most importantly though, I know Benevento is not one to settle; not one to find a comfort zone and stick with it. That's why I can't wait to see what he comes with next.