I forget it’s always daylight in Times Square even when it’s night. I went solo, expecting a phone call that never came. Feeling a bit sick from the customer service at Bubba Gump’s. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been there but just like that Denny’s in Denver, all plastered smiles and most strangely, on each table, two signs to signal the waitress, run forest run and stop forest stop. Terrifying.
To the concert.
Ben, a baby Bob Dylan in a red jacket and old blue jeans.
In front of me, what appears to be a big Kweller fan who tries to speak to me, then loses his nerve. In front of him a very drunk couple. The drunken man slaps the back of his curled up girl in time with the music attempting to reassure her or maybe snap her out of feeling sick. He talks loudly which is obviously upsetting the big fan behind, I get distracted by harmonies and Ben singing,
“Take care of me, bah, bah.”
He asks for the lights to come up so that he can see his audience, cheers from the crowd, open waving palms. It’s quite something to be in New York city listening to a song live that references New York city. His lyricism, simple and honest.
That girl is not feeling well, her boyfriend still trying to ignore that he is going to have to take her home. The fan making hand gestures by this point.
Ben plays on, patting his heart and stamping his feet all the while, his cherubic face belting out “your pretty hair.” One of his backing musicians, a sweet faced man with a side parting, tie and corduroy jacket, playing a guitar on its side, punches the air. Ben raises his guitar, hollers and stamps. If there were dust on the stage it would have risen.
Then he is alone singing “on my way” so eerily like Dylan that I spend 10 minutes on Google whilst writing this trying to find out if it was a cover. Finally he makes it to the piano and I am sitting in good view of the keys. He adjusts the microphone, explaining,
“I don’t like it when it sticks out too much, but some people do”. The venue seats about 1000 but feels much smaller.
The drunk couple are leaving, the boyfriend shakes hands with the big fan, apologizes, stumbles away. She’s been sick on the floor.
Ben plays a harmonica with his left hand and the piano with his right. He mentions New York again and there are more cheers, he says he’s missed us. His voice cracks in the break between his head and chest. The band comes back, a sliver thumb pick reflects the stage lights.
He begins a story about how he saw Willy Mason’s parents at the knitting factory and they played him a song that they had written but never recorded. He has put it on the new album and despite having recorded it for the piano he changes his mind and plays on guitar. The willowy twin girls who supported him come back and don’t seem nearly as irritating this time around.
Dancing like a boy from Kentucky should, he flicks out his heels, slips about in his boots, joyful in a sharp way. He gestures to the crowd on lyrics about aces and faces, two’s and threes. His kid who is barely three is backstage in stripy pyjama’s dancing to penny on the train tracks and as more of the audience start to notice him sidling on to the stage there is louder cheering and laughter.
For a while Ben doesn’t notice he’s being upstaged and then turns and says, “that’s my boy.” The kid does some somersaults. They dance together. Suddenly we are all on our feet, clapping in time. He shakes hands and high fives with the crowd, the kid raising both his fists in triumph. Ben bundles him up and takes him off to bed. Which is where I’m headed too.