This past weekend, I travelled to Montréal for some well-intentioned frivolity and the Tame Impala concert at the Bell Centre. My friends and I arrived in town at about the same time Kevin Parker and company were hitting the stage back in Toronto at Bestival.
While the main reason behind our trip to Montréal had ultimately been to see Tame Impala, the opening act was just as integral to the evening overall.
Benjamin Booker, who turned 27 on Tuesday, hit the stage with his trio made up of drummer Max Norton and Alex Spoto on bass, at 8:00 sharp and delivered an electrifying performance from the first note.
His sound is an amalgamation of high-velocity, feedback driven blues and boogie with the lyrics delivered in a harsh rasp reminiscent of Ray LeMontange. Booker is a captivating figure on the stage, using his red Epiphone to direct his band mates through the winding instrumental interludes that unite his set.
The band and the set were tight, and played to a crowd that, even by the time they finished, had barely begun to reach the capacity that would eventually flood in for the headliners; phenomena I have always had a hard time understanding.
Booker released his self-titled debut album in August of 2013 on Rough Trade Records, the same label that has released the work of Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket and Houndmouth. Benjamin Booker was recorded in the all analogue Bomb Shelter Studio in Nashville and produced by Andrija Tokic.
In the studio, Booker’s sound is occasionally rounded out by the addition of keyboards, something I did not fully miss during his live performance given the trio’s proven ability to fill the room with a wealth of noise.
Key tracks on the record include the driving “Have You Seen My Son” and “Wicked Waters.” These are interspersed with slower numbers such as “Slow Coming” which demonstrate Booker’s ability to deliver straight ahead, yet soulful ballads in a Donovan á la “Catch the Wind” tone.
According to Booker’s website, his stop in Montréal was his penultimate North American stop before heading to England in August. This should come as no surprise as the past two years have seen him touring with the likes of Jack White and playing both Lollapalooza and the Newport Folk Festival.
With these credentials combined with a sound and presence that holds its sparse self up even to the immersive performance of Tame Impala, there is a doubt that Benjamin Booker is an artist to watch in the years to come.