By Josh Hertzog   Published May 21, 2005 at 5:02 AM

{image1} What could be better on a cold and wet Wednesday evening than to spend it at The Rave, catching some popular music? Forecast: good music beyond the clouds, from Brendan Benson and main act Keane. OMC sat down with Benson before his Milwaukee gig.


Benson, a Detroit native, released his third full-length album in March 2005. His easy-going rock style is similar to that of Elliott Smith, but with a little more flair.

"It's a medium rock sound," Benson said. "All three CDs have pretty much kept that consistency."

Teaching himself guitar at 14, Benson joined a few bands in high school. This was something new to the family.

"No one in my family is really musical," Benson said, adding that his family did provide him with a great soundtrack to grow up with.

"My parents listened to a lot of David Bowie, and I enjoyed that, too," said Benson, who points to Bowie and Elvis Costello as major influences.

Disregarding the non-musical family genes, Benson kept at it, landing him the job of opening act for the up-and-coming band Keane. And with him, he brings a few superstitions as well.

"I have all kinds of superstitions and weird habits," Benson said. "I knock on wood a lot."

Whatever the reason may be, it seems to be paying off for Benson as his music is spreading across the country, even on the popular television show, "The OC."

"The song, 'What I'm Looking For' was featured on the show," Benson said. "It was cool to hear that."

What else does Benson do besides music?

"I paint, but not as often as I used to," Benson said. "For me, it's about the music and trying to get better with each album. It's a fruitless endeavor."

The Show

Benson arrived on The Rave stage around 7:30 p.m., a tall and extremely skinny man, accompanied by the Stiff Tissues, his band for the show.

He started the show with mostly upbeat songs from not only his most recent release, but all three albums. Comparing the vocals from the record to the live performance, Benson didn't disappoint.

A common problem at many concerts, the overall sound wasn't balanced and the volume of the band's instruments overwhelemed the vocals and hurt the performance. Some of Benson's best vocal sections were quieted by overpowering guitar and bass notes.

That could have explained the crowd's somewhat stale and inactive response. Many were either standing as if staring at a wall, or just moving their heads up and down like bobble-head dolls.

Another reason could have been the fact that Benson's music isn't quite in the same genre as Keane's. During our conversation, Benson spoke of his delight to be on tour with Keane, but hesitant that crowds aren't really into the type of music he's performing. A fair comment.

Even when Benson played "Spit it Out," one of his best songs and one that has received radio play recently, the crowd stood motionless, like statues.

Benson extended a few of his songs to jam out a bit.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd, Benson played the show like he wanted to, and even interacted with the crowd, smile on his face. The crowd applauded generously after each song, which was a good sign of life from them.

If you have the chance to go see Brendan Benson, don't see him as the opening act for Keane or any other band. Catch him when he is playing to his crowd.


After Benson left the stage, more people quickly arrived at The Rave as if through time-traveling machines. They came out of nowhere. Then, in a running of the bulls fashion, everyone made their way closer to the stage.

After what seemed to be a delay that General Mitchell Airport would appreciate, Keane arrived as fog covered the stage.

Providing a well thought-out mix of slow and upbeat songs, Keane had the crowd going right from the first piano note. Some audience members were throwing up their hands in the air, as if religiously saved by the music.

Keane was at The Rave in February and peformed a nearly identical set (a few new songs were added). But the band did add some visual elements this time.

There was a large projector screen behind the stage, which flashed a series of experimental and unusual video clips. This drew attention awa from from the performance as many tried to figure out the point of the clips.

With a voice that carries wonderfully and is reminiscent of Ewan McGregor's in "Moulin Rouge," Keane puts on a great live show.

And who could forget the pianist of the band, who plays as if he's got ants in his pants. I've never seen that much sweat drip from a piano player. His intensity truly shows how much the band loves playing their music.