Benjamin Booker at Turner Hall: A Review

Benjamin Booker is not a wholesome folk singer. He graces the stage with a toughness. He is aloof, he smokes cigarettes, and he is unafraid to spew some obscenities toward drunken crowd members begging for recognition.

What initially intrigued me about Booker was his subtle mesh of influences. I’ve heard him described as punk, blues and folk, but none of these descriptions accurately portray the timelessness of Booker’s soulful crooning and guitar expertise. He is a blues musician, an old soul, a rock star and sort of a badass, in one completely appealing, almost branded package.

Benjamin Booker played at Turner Hall Friday, March 27. After being hooked all summer 2014 on his “Violent Shiver,” and making it a bit of a personal anthem while driving to the beach on weekends, I was glad to witness his music in what I’d consider a somewhat intimate venue. The first thing to note about the performance wasn’t even the show itself, but the crowd. Never, and I mean never, have I seen such a melting pot of characters at a show.

In the top right corner near the stage there were some young, rowdy punks. The middle of the crowd was a cocktail of millennial hipsters, yo-pros and middle-aged folks who you could tell appreciated some catchy, true Southern blues. Toward the edges of the room, the crowd grew progressively older. Not only was this odd little tribe of misfits positively exciting, but it reflected the shattered boundaries and genres of Booker’s music. The universal language has done it again.

Booker played I believe the entirety of his self-titled debut, along with at least one or two traditional blues songs from New Orleans, his hometown. Shedding his beanie and flannel halfway through the set to get comfortable in a thin henley, Booker kept the conversation to a minimum and his incredible singing to a max, with a live performance that truly captured the Lead Belly influence in his soulful voice.

Shows don’t often leave me wondering about the artist, but I can safely say I was captivated by Booker’s, not exactly charm, but utter sense of genre-and-time transcending self.

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