Pete Yorn, Ben Kweller House of Blues April 14, 2011
By the time Pete Yorn and his band were onstage, House of Blues was comfortably packed, as the crowd enjoyed the jovial and upbeat melodies that sounded as though they could have been theme songs to new-age Country & Western TV shows.
The ladies swooned (and glared enviously at Yorn's wedding ring), while the men bobbed their heads approvingly to Yorn and company's musical prowess, which, in spite of a somewhat small following, was really quite impressive.
But it was Ben Kweller, the Jewish cowboy, who stole the show.
When Kweller first walked out onstage, we were nervous for him. Performing by himself in front of a few hundred fans? It must have been nerve-racking, even for a tried-and-true musician, and our question was this: Would he have enough intensity by himself to command the crowd's attention?
In a word, yes.
From the onset of his performance, Kweller began leaping around the stage, strumming his guitar as if he were accompanied by his best friends and bandmates, as he seamlessly drifted from acoustic folk and solemn piano riffs to upbeat country and Southern rock.
"Do you want to sing with me?" he asked the crowd with a smile. "We can sing a song together, if you'd like."
At this point, Kweller taught the crowd a simple melody and asked them to sing along every time he began the chorus. We did as we were told and realized that he was using us as fill-in in for his lack of a backup singer. No one seemed to mind.
"I'm losing control," we all sang. "I just want to rock and roll."
It crossed our minds that his set, the entirety of which he performed without anyone else onstage, was something of a risky endeavor, especially set between two full bands. But Kweller pulled it off without a hitch.
At least to our ears. He wasn't so easy on himself, though.
"Sorry I'm singing like shit tonight," he said after performing three or four songs on the piano. "I ate a bunch of burritos right before the show. And you should never eat right before you sing."
The crowd disagreed, cheering him on at the top of their lungs as he put his guitar back on.
He had the pipes, the skill and enough intellectual, emotion-rousing lyrics to keep the attention of audience members for the whole set.
The crowd, sparse though it may have been, ate it all up and seemed eager for an encore. Unfortunately, Kweller didn't deliver; we assume because he wasn't the headlining act.
Even without an encore, he successfully stole the show away from two other talented groups... and he did it all by himself.
Personal Bias: None. We just happy that today is Friday. We so excited.
The Crowd: Sparse, but lively and enthusiastic.
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Overheard In the Crowd: More cheers for Ben Kweller than for Pete Yorn. We told you he stole the show.
Random Notebook Dump: The eligible bachelors of Houston would have done themselves a favor by attending Thursday's show, where the ratio of men to women couldn't have been more than one to five.