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Ben Kweller heats up frigid night at Legends

Tae Andrews | Monday, February 12, 2007

Word of mouth is a funny thing. From the absence of posters and general lack of official fanfare, Ben Kweller might have thought he was sneaking in the back door as his tour bus pulled up for a pit stop in South Bend last Friday night. However, like a game of collegiate “Telephone,” news of Kweller’s impending arrival spread across campus, resulting in hundreds of Domers making the journey across a frigid campus to Legends.

And so concert-goers found themselves huddled and shivering outside of Legends last Friday night an hour before Kweller took the stage. However, despite the cold, anticipation built to the point of bursting as the muffled sounds of the band soundchecking and rehearsing onstage reached the frozen ears of those waiting outside in the Siberian tundra that was Notre Dame. A lucky few managed to wait indoors, which opened shortly after 10:30, offering a blessed respite from the sub-zero temperatures.

It was worth the wait. Greeted with raucous cheers and excited applause from the moment he stepped onstage, Kweller flashed a youthful grin and clearly fed off the crowd’s energy as the night went on. Dressed in a Where’s Waldo-esque striped T-shirt, a corduroy jacket, and a tight-fitting pair of women’s jeans, the cherubic-faced crooner looked every bit the face of boyish rock rebellion as he sang onstage with his carefully-groomed curls bouncing every which way as he rocked all night long.

With lyrics that range from silly to sweet, the best part of Kweller is that he manages to switch between energetic rock anthems and simple but sweet love ballads. Sometimes he even manages to do both in the same song, as he did while playing “On My Way.” Starting off with a simple “boom-chika” strum reminiscent of Johnny Cash, Kweller dropped lyrical gems such as, “I wanna kill this man / but he turned around and ran / I’ll kill him with karate that I learned in Japan” before finishing on a softer note with lyrics such as, “I’m in love with someone / who’s as pretty as a flower / her life gives me power / so I’m buying her a ring.” In addition, Kweller played hits such as “I Need You Back,” “My Apartment” and “The Rules.” He also showed off his sweeter side, just in time for Valentine’s Day, with songs such as “Believer” and “The Rules.”

That’s the essence of mop-topped rocker – his ability to capture the fun and spirit of rock ‘n roll and then shake things up with a varied array of different-sounding jams.

Whatever he was doing, it was working, as the crowd went along with every song he sang. Legends was filled to capacity, and the Kweller-crazed and uninitiated alike jammed out in unison as the audience turned into a sea of bobbing heads sprinkled with the occasional mosher jumping up and down and screaming along in unison to every lyric with as much passion as Kweller himself.

After the band left the set, the stage didn’t remain dark for very long as the audience immediately roared with thunderous applause and call for an encore. Kweller didn’t make them wait for long, coming out for a solo bit in which he showed off his musical versatility, playing a cover of Garth Brooks’ “Friends In Low Places” and Roger Miller’s “Chug-A-Lug,” which set off a round of restaurant-rocking choruses of “chug-a-lugs” and “hi-dee-hos.” Finally, Kweller gave the audience what it had been waiting for all night, pulling his band back onstage for a rendition of his signature anthem, “Wasted and Ready,” which set off the crowd like a powder keg. Good luck trying to quell that audience and silence the energy of the old and new fans alike.

Ben Kweller’s playing at Legends is appropriate enough for a burgeoning rock star, as he is quickly blossoming into one of the most loved, especially here on campus.