Last Tuesday night, Benjamin Verdoes graced the Triple Door stage for the vinyl release show of his solo project, The Evil Eye. It was an evening of gratitude, love, and meaningful music.
Opener John Van Deusen of The Lonely Forest played a roughly 30-minute set of mellow tunes on acoustic guitar. The music was filled out by the help of three other folks on vocals and percussion. Van Deusen kept his audience aware of the lyrics by explaining his songs about first world problems, how McDonald’s fries relate to break-ups, and so on. He switched to piano for a song and even bassist Scott Teske from the Seattle Rock Orchestra joined for one tune during the set. Lastly, just he and his wife started a sweet song together and finished with the other three vocalists accompanying them.
After a short break, Benjamin Verdoes took the stage. He was accompanied by Sam Miller on keys and bass, Jonathan Worman on keys and guitar, Matt Badger on drums, Melodie Knight on back-up vocals, and the Seattle Rock Orchestra. It didn’t take long for Verdoes to say exactly how he was feeling: “I’m just gonna tell you I love you early, but I mean it.” He was referring to the fact that most of the people there that night had, in some way, supported him; through friendship, fan status, or love. Throughout the night, Verdoes continues to express gratitude for the people in his life, including, specifically, his girlfriend Ifra, by whom the album was inspired. He was earnest and sincere, a fact that was not lost on the audience, friend, or stranger.
The first half of Verdoes’ set was solid and the band was polished. Every tune was woven with unpredictable, interesting, and beautiful melodies and harmonies that kept the listener fully engaged. The band members also showed their overall musical proficiency by switching instruments throughout the set. Back-up vocalist Melodie Knight entered the stage towards the end of the first half, sitting behind Verdoes and blending into the orchestra. Though I’ve seen Knight perform numerous times, I’m always taken aback by how powerful a vocalist and performer she is. Without even standing up for most of the set, she managed to deepen the experience of the music by whatever other-worldly energy she was tapped into.
The second half of Verdoes’ set felt slightly more energetic and dynamic with sounds ranging from erie and longing, to beautiful and worldly. The smaller version of the Seattle Rock Orchestra, including Kim Roy, conductor, added to the fullness of the music and, combined with Verdoes’ occasional falsetto, created a holy musical experience. With a good-bye that included a heartfelt thanks to everyone who had supported him over the three years he worked on the album, he ended the show with his last tune. Leaving the audience with no encore was, for me, a welcome relief from the often contrived obligation.