Although this publication hails from the Pacific Northwest, I recently found myself in colorful Colorado at the same time (the incredible!) Marco Benevento was holding a two-night stand at the 1up on Colfax Avenue and the action was so hot, I figured I could spread some coverage love to the wild West. After all, how often do you find yourself in an intimate venue with an old-school arcade in the lobby and a piano mastermind in the main hall ready to jam out two sets of blues rock with riffs so heavy and vibrant you had no choice but to cut a rug? Hardly ever when you say it like that.
The first night started with a jazz fusion outfit called GS3. Their music began with a lot of space for improvisation, and grew more and more cohesive by the number. By the end of it, they had fused their jazz right into progressive rock with a pulsating rhythm and piano lead melodies. In between sets I took the obligatory journey next door to Sanchos to drink a gaze at the walls filled with poster and murals of the Grateful Dead and other rock gods (Widespread Panic FTW!).
After a couple rounds of AC DC pinball back at the 1up, I made my way to the venue just as Benevento and crew graced the stage. He came equipped with his usual, star-studded cast of bassist Dave Dreiwitz (Ween) and Andy Borger (Tom Waits). Songs off of his latest album, Swift filled out the majority of the first set as they worked in “If I Can See You At All” and “Coyote” in with the first few songs before reaching back to Tigerface and whipping out the high pitched synthesizers for “Limbs Of A Pine.”
When the band returned after a short break, set number two nosedived into Marco Benevento’s liveliest songs. He began with “The Real Morning Party” with that same synthesizer piercing its way to the feet of everyone on the dancefloor. This flowed right into the slow moving, but hard hitting cover of Sweedish group the Knife’s “Heartbeats.” Per usual, he adds in a lot more piano as his keys took over the vocals, but the pop tone in this song (as well as a good portion of Benevento’s catalogue) is alive and well. Don’t get me wrong though, this is blues at its core and he never drives the ship too far away from the muddy waters where that music was born.
Once the dust had settle from the synths and effects that opened the second set, Marco went into several long, piano arrangements riffing his way in and out of a smooth rhythm section. The bar room blues potion of the show was now in full effect until they closed out with “At The Show.” The night came to a close with an encore of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” (as made famous by the Rolling Stones).
What we saw this night, was a highly animated Marco Benevento. One that was climbing on speakers, singing with the audience, but still not shying away from the piano fingers that give him notoriety. Not to mention a fiercely superior rhythm section. I can’t speak for what happened on night two, but I was certainly glad I saw night one.