Pete Yorn and friends delight at the House of Blues

A review of Pete Yorn, Ben Kweller at the House of Blues on March 8, 2011

, Contributing Writer

Making his way to Boston in support of his 2010 self-titled release, Pete Yorn hit the House of Blues on Tuesday night, delivering a crowd pleasing set that completed a quality night of music that also featured Ben Kweller and The Wellspring.

With his three-piece backing band in tow, Yorn ran through a slew of new songs off last year’s self-titled album produced by Frank Black. Among the highlights were lead single “Precious Stones” and the charging “Velcro Shoes”, both of which showcased Yorn’s recent move towards a heavier, more classic rock-like sound. From there, he traded in his electric for an acoustic guitar and newer songs for some of his older numbers in a more stripped down approach. It was a welcomed switch, especially considering that the tone of the evening had been set by the softer, acoustic driven sets from openers Kweller and The Wellspring. The band proved capable of making the switch in most places, lending a firm, rollicking feel to the harder stuff, and a smooth, forlorn folk-laden vibe to the acoustic songs.

Always the kind of artist to throw in some covers, Yorn did his take on the Junior Kimbrough’s”I Feel Good Again”, which is also featured on his 2004 Live from New Jersey EP, and then segued into Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” as the outro to another song. Later in the eveniing, he began playing the Radiohead’s “Black Star” while his band was getting ready between songs. When someone caught what he was doing, he laughed and in tongue-in-cheek fashion informed the audience that it was one of his new songs. This loose and lighthearted vibe carried through and increased throughout the set. By the end of the night, Yorn seemed in a fantastic mood as he closed out the night with a number of crowd favorites including “Strange Condition”. “Lose You”, off his 2001 debut album Musicforthemorningafter, closed out the encore, ending a satisfying 90-minute set.

Serving in the primary support role was Kweller, who made his way to the stage unaccompanied and proceeded to quickly get down to business. His quirky, goofy demeanor and willingness to let the audience have some laughs with his performance, helped to create an intimacy with his performance, especially beneficial during his more ballad-leaning songs like “Falling” off his debut album, Sha Sha. With a voice that simultaneously recalls Conor Oberst’s more unhinged tenor, and Ben Folds conversational tone, Kweller can grab hold of an audience even without support from a backing band. With his occasional use of the distortion pedal for one man fuzz freakouts and humorous stage banter between songs, he kept things light but engaging all evening.

Even the most gifted of solo performers, however, has to contend with constant struggle between audience noise and the music. During a few of the quieter songs in the middle of his set, Kweller became something of a background soundtrack to the chatting in the audience. Still, he managed nicely, pulling heavily from earlier material that he said he wouldn’t be playing much anymore, now that he’s switched from ATO to his own label and doesn’t own all the rights to his older material. Kweller finished off the evening with a jubilant take on “Wasted & Ready”.

The Wellspring’s opening set showcased their brand of country-tinged soft rock. They played mostly from their debut EP, in more stripped down arrangements than the EP’s string-laden, overdubbed sound. This stripped down approach, necessitated by the fact that it was only the core duo of Dov Rosenblatt and Talia Osteen with an accompanying drummer, lent well to the quieter songs, including a gorgeous take on “Tug of War”. The unsigned band from L.A. was sponsored by LastMinuteTravel.com, and thus gave away a free flight to one lucky member of the audience after their set.

Early arrivals were treated to a set from New Jersey singer-songwriter Anthony D’Amato.

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