Brendan Benson At Irving Plaza

Brendan Benson played at Irving Plaza here in NYC last Friday night. Local band Tralala and the Cincinnati band The Greenhornes opened. I really like Tralala’s self-titled album, but wasn’t that into them live. Seeing them onstage, you realize that there are four singers. At any given time, at least two are playing the tambourine or clapping their hands. It’s hard not to wonder if all four women are necessary… Erin is the hot blonde with the best sounding voice, and Nicole plays a sampler while she sings. Nicole, their “resident booze hound” was either embarassingly drunk (they went on at 8:30) or embarrisingly trying to channel Karen O. Their guitarist seemed bored, often playing while the girls tried out their stage banter.

The Greenhornes were really, really boring. There’s no other way to say it. They sounded like the kind of band guys who weren’t smart enough to “get” Dave Matthews Band might have liked in high school. The sound clips on their website make them sound like a band I’d really want to see, but live, their songs were all blues rock riff clichés, and veered dangerously close to jam band territory.

Brendan Benson, though, was awesome. He kept banter to a minimum, and played a decent mix of songs off all three of his albums. Judging from the dearth of hoots when he launched into slightly reworked versions of “Insects Rule” and “Crosseyed,” most of the audience weren’t into/familiar with his first album One Mississippi. It’s really great to see Brendan Benson putting out albums and touring, since after his 1996 debut failed to get much notice, it seemed like he might never climb out of the bargain bin.