Saturday Night: The Posies And Brendan Benson At Groundhall

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Photos by Jason Wolter
The Posies, Brendan Benson
November 27, 2010

"Do you guys remember the '90s?" queried Posies guitarist Jon Auer to Saturday's Groundhall crowd. A moderate cheer proved the audience not only remembered the decade, but also eagerly supported its recent revival (if only in the form of the era's "it" band reunion tours).

Vintage alt-rock permeated the show, co-headlined by songsmith Brendan Benson. Though Benson is undoubtedly best known for his recent collaboration with White Stripes front man Jack White in the Raconteurs, he has steadily released a stream of solo efforts since 1996 debut One Mississippi.

Detroit native and Nashville transplant Benson tapped into his fellow headliners to assemble his back-up band. The Posies are no strangers to this role - In the mid-'90s, Big Star's Alex Chilton recruited both Auer and Posies frontman Ken Stringfellow for that band's reformation, and Stringfellow also often lends his musical hand on tour with R.E.M.

Benson's boyish good looks disguised the fact that he's actually a seasoned musician, backed by nearly 15 years of solo work. "I love Texas," Benson declared before hesitantly elaborating, "I'm one of the few."

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Unsurprisingly, confessing such a sentiment to a Houston crowd only sparked awkward chuckles and instant boos. Just two songs into his set and Benson already had to win us back over.

Known for his consumate power-pop melodies, Benson weaved through his catalogue, pulling heavily from this year's My Old, Familiar Friend with "Garbage Day" and "I'll Never Tell," as well as 2002's Lapalco with "Good To Me" and the singsong "Metarie." Plucking the Posies as his backing band certainly didn't hurt his cause.

While Benson tuned his guitar, Auer jokingly filled the between-song silence by playing the opening notes of "Stairway to Heaven," an act that may have ignited a giggle from the crowd, but caused Benson to respond, "I can't believe you just tarnished our set with 'Stairway!'"

Though amused, Aftermath shared Benson's objection, as Led Zeppelin had no business making an appearance in the songwriter's bubblegum-tinged set.

For those only familiar with Benson via the hard-rocking Raconteurs, few likenesses exist between his solo work and he and White's far hardier blues-rock band. As a solo artist, Benson instead adheres to lighthearted pop songs backed by candid lyrics of failed relationships.

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Alternative to Love single "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)" evoked some crowd murmur, likely due to its appearance on a recent iPod commercial. A little research taught us Benson's songs have also served as the soundtrack to Saturn, Ford and Sears spots.

Ultimately, this discovery might best sum up Benson's sound - listenable accompaniment to a commercial. As Benson closed his set with Friend's "A Whole Lot Better," Aftermath found ourselves itching for the distortion pedal.

Enter the Posies, a band working overtime.

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