By Pat Gunther
Benjamin Booker, Louisiana’s brightest musical star, took over the Varsity Theatre last Thursday night for a show that undoubtedly wowed fans both old and new. Though born in Virginia Beach, Booker has spent the better part of his formidable years making music as unique as the city he has long occupied. A mixture of traditional NOLA blues, ‘70s soul and the increasingly popular garage rock, Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut LP thrust him into the national spotlight since its release in August of 2014. With sold out shows across the country and the adulation of late night television king David Letterman, Benjamin Booker has finally given a face to the next generation of NOLA’s great music scene.
Since recording Benjamin Booker in the legendary Bomb Shelter studio in Nashville, Tenn. Booker has helped spearhead the analog revival led by the likes of Mac Demarco, Alabama Shakes and countless other acts who are throwing their sound and style way back to the technology of yesterday. The widespread critical and commercial acclaim of his debut sparked interest in the young bluesman, even landing him a spot on Rolling Stones’ “11 artists you need to know” list for 2014. Additionally, the likes of the legendary SPIN Magazine and Paste also put Booker atop their newcomers list, helping solidify the NOLA-by-way-of-Virginia as one of America’s most promising rock musicians. Signed to ATO Records, many fans have been eager to hear what Booker will cook up next.
After a hectic 2014 that began with him opening shows for one of America’s most preeminent rock icons Jack White, Booker’s debut provided much adulation from unsuspecting fans and critics with a keen eye on the kid. “Benjamin Booker makes music that sounds like someone threw a match into a box of fireworks: bright, furious, explosive garage rock that’s liable to set a house on fire.” Garrett Kamps of SPIN said in his write up. Though not the most widely-appealing vocalist, Booker’s raspy howl is full of bluesy energy that’s so innately New Orleans, “Violent Shiver” his lead single, could serve as the city’s official house-party anthem.
With Booker finally returning to his home state last week, then, fans were certainly treated to a raucous, booze-drenched evening that is sure to get every single person in the building jiving uncontrollably. This contagious energy, both present in his studio recordings and live shows, helped solidify Booker as one of the most fun and intoxicating acts present at this year’s Voodoo Fest in October, where I was first treated to a live performance of his incredible album cuts. With his reputation for an American rock soul-man firmly entrenched, the music world’s eyes and ears are glued to whatever it is Booker conjures up next.