Benjamin Booker basks in the moody limelight of the O2 Academy and his disciples’ reverence, Getintothis’ Emma Walsh just about manages to restrain herself.
On the night of a devastating summer budget for the young and low paid there seemed no one more apt to fill the O2 Academy spotlight than Benjamin Booker and his gut wrenching blend of punk rock and blues. We were angry and morose and there’s something distinctly ‘fuck this shit‘ about his sound that caught the mood perfectly.
Support on the night came from Carbon. The band were called Carbon. If you’ve just started reading they were Carbon.
Carbon had clearly read somewhere that repetition is a good marketing tool, so much so that anyone playing the Band Name drinking game would’ve found themselves forking out for more than one £4.80 pint to keep up.
We liked the sound of Bonfire in a melancholy teenage angsty kind of way, again an apt tone for the evening.
The crowd were not so fussed, clearly they had lots of political-economic issues to discuss at great volumes. The murmur of the crowd was somewhat sedating despite the whine and racket of the band (think they were called Carbon?) but despite all their chatter the audience didn’t utter a word when the lead singer asked, in typical tuning gap filler fashion, if everyone was enjoying themselves. Perhaps they were being polite. Its like Thumper’s mum said in Bambi, ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all’. The gospel mantra of gig reviewers the world over… lol. Anyway, that was Carbon.
Forgive this writer her most basic instincts, but Benjamin Booker really is a most beautiful man. He has the voice of an angel that smokes sixty a day, and the way he chews on a plectrum – I mean, my god. And when he does open his mouth it is with a husky rasp, curled lip and gritted jaw, Booker sings in the way that EL James wishes she could write. It is impossible to take in anything else in the room. The kind but creepy man of middle age trying to make polite conversation next to us became but a blur in the background of Booker‘s vocal foreplay. “Hm? Oh yes he does have a very fine voice, you’re quite right” – now kindly shut up while I fantasise about it.
Later as he played Cupid with two members of the audience who were getting a little cosy Booker asked if there were many single folks in the house. Our other half will be relieved to hear that we managed to bite our tongue.
Next followed a fiddle interlude (of course we meant the violin you pervert!) with banjo care of the drummer and a little groove and grind from Booker himself before he threw himself into a full scale shakedown to match the energy and vigour of the floppy haired boys head banging and moshing up front and centre.
“Where’s everyone going after?” Booker inquires of the rowdy audience.
“Your house!” comes the shout from the front. With a laugh Booker consults us on the city’s property market and whether its worth an investment. “I did see a protest in town today” he continues, pausing to concentrate purposefully on the gabbled explanation that comes from the crowd before breaking into an exasperated smile. “Sure” he nods with a laugh, “I can’t understand anything anyone says here!“
There was no breakdown in communication when it came to getting the drinks in however, “shots?” being a universally accepted request. Grateful to the floppy haired disciple forthcoming with a shot glass Booker’s face quickly dropped: “Fucking Jagermeister??”
Feeding off the raucous atmosphere Booker threw himself into the set with gusto, delivering rabble-rousing renditions of Wicked Waters and Violent Shivers, announcing: “This may be the drunkest crowd since Glastonbury“.
Throughout the chaos of noise and sheer skull-cracking reverb Booker floats around the stage presenting his guitar to various amps as though darning together his own delicate blend of feedback. He moves as gracefully as a ballet dancer in the thundering tornado of sound. As he strides off stage leaving a pounding alarm of reverb, we finally breathe out, a languishing sigh escaping onto the moody outre of Muddy Waters as the lights come up and our fantasy fades out.
Better than an EL James sex scene any day.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Waters: