Benedict Benjamin’s album launch at The Islington had long been in the works. The hype had been built in the month leading up by Benedict Benjamin via social media, with tantalising titbits such as the announcement that he was going to be playing with a full band. A mere 5 days after his debut album was released, the band room at The Islington was packed to capacity with a group of wide-eyed appreciators who were there to celebrate with him, and enjoy the music he had created.
Occasionally when bands put out an album, they will treat their fans to a live performance of it in full from start to finish. This was one of those occasions, and it really must be noted just how special this sort of event is; albums are a curated journey, with thought put in to how the listener should feel as it unravels. To be able to recreate this in a live setting makes for a particularly memorable night.
Single ‘Thin Skin’ was undoubtedly the stand out track of the night. Its lilting melody backed up by the whole band brought it alive. The brooding single ‘My Feet Have No Need For The Ground’ was another highlight, driven along by the four suited musicians filling the stage around the man behind the whole affair, Ben Rubinstein.
He is an entertaining front man – quiet and unassuming, almost pragmatic at times, but always hilarious. The album, Rubinstein joked, is a Sunday–Thursday album, and should never be listened to on Friday and Saturday. His comments between songs as he fiddled with his guitar had the whole room laughing. He also shared stories of the difficulties of recording the album in churches around London and Kent, including such problems as noisy planes, and disruptive birds trapped in roofs.
The keyboard player was the main back-up singer, and his voice matched Rubinstein’s perfectly. Although there were five people onstage, the arrangements didn’t shy away from only using Rubinstein’s voice and guitar in parts where it was necessary. This meant that the live performance had the same dynamics that the album has. In fact, the live sound was very true to the album, and Rubinstein’s voice was just as strong. The venue suited Benedict Benjamin perfectly; its intimate nature allowing Rubinstein to sing even his quieter, crooning songs comfortably without having to strain his voice to be heard.
‘Had What You Had’ was the climax of the set, which was obvious even without Rubinstein needing to point out this fact. It started out in the classic Benedict Benjamin way; sensitive, with Rubinstein’s voice and his acoustic guitar, joined by some atmospheric vocals in the chorus and the slow build of a bass guitar. When it exploded into the musical break-down that takes place during the second half of the song, the room was enveloped in its minor chords and the driving instrumentation that really signified the cathartic moment of the set and left everyone reeling in its wake.
Ending the album, ‘The Hardest Thing’ brought everyone back down again as Rubinstein serenaded the room with his smooth voice and guitar. The album ends where it starts; just Rubinstein and his guitar, connecting everyone in his web of emotion and stories of life and loss. While the first song is upbeat and has purpose, wistfully leading into the album, this final track is a reflection, a sad lullaby about having your heart ripped out and ripping out someone else’s heart. It is an intimately emotional ending to the album.
Thankfully for the audience who were wondering if they were going to be left with the sad feeling gleaned from the final track, Rubinstein announced one final treat, and the band launched into The Everly Brothers’ classic track ‘Cathy’s Clown’. A personal favourite of Rubinstein’s, the song made for a perfect end to a perfect night.
This Benedict Benjamin article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor. Lead photo by Chris Patmore – @cpartfoto www.chrispatmore.co.uk