Call it a welcome new holiday tradition: Eclectic jam duo Benevento/Russo closed out 2005 with a string of riveting performances featuring Phish bassist Mike Gordon, in an encore of the trio’s year-ending trek in 2004.
The three, pulling music from the Duo’s repertoire and that of Gordon’s old band, sounded like natural born partners, with the gifted bassist and songwriter handily plugging into his tourmates’ music, and injecting multiple new grooves and textures into their tunes. They returned his favor.
Marco Benevento (on Hammond B3 organ, Fender Rhodes electric piano and other keyboards) and drummer Joe Russo thrive on a certain free-spirited musical intensity, and they wasted little time demonstrating that propensity with the swirling swells and hyper percussion figures of opener “Welcome Red,” one of several tunes taken from last year’s rangy “Best Reason To Buy the Sun” disc.
The energy never flagged once during the first set, which also featured the Duo’s melodic “Play, Pause, Stop”; “Hoedown,” faster, punkier and noisier than ELP’s prog-rock version of the Aaron Copland melody; Aerosmith’s “Last Child”; the twisted roadhouse stomp of “White Freightliner Blues”; and “Best Reason To Buy the Sun,” which graduated from a pretty theme to near-metallic slamming.
Gordon turned in a pair of vocals during the show’s first half, opening alone and veering into the theme from “The Godfather” on Phish’s “Mike’s Song” and ramping up the funk on a reading of Bobby Blue Bland’s “Going Down Slow.”
Set two offered sprawling versions of two Phish tunes — “You Enjoy Myself,” tricked with an opening reference to the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” and “Theme From the Bottom” — as well as a short and sweet take on country chestnut “Dixie Cannonball,” a two-beat gem. The gospel-injected blues of Craig David’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til the Well Runs Dry)” made a friendly closing sing-along, and the trio returned for an encore of Phish’s “Foam.”
The group reportedly followed their official Jannus Landing show with an impromptu set at a nightclub at the rear of the downtown St. Petersburg venue. Lesson learned: With Benevento/Russo + Mike Gordon, it’s not over ’til it’s over.
Here is the set list:
“Play, Pause, Stop”
“White Freightliner Blues”
“Best Reason to Buy the Sun”
“Going Down Slow”
“You Enjoy Myself”
“Theme from the Bottom”
“You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til the Well Runs Dry)”