You know that feeling when you’re at a show and the whole band is just killing, and you’re not sure which musician to watch, so your eyes end up darting back and forth like a little kid who can’t figure out which Christmas present to open first? That’s how I felt during the entirety of Ben Darwish’s The Lonely Night on Friday evening, except I had the show’s video projection and theatrical elements to contend with as well. The show incorporates pictures from Darwish's past, video shot for this project, and the occasional bit of slient playacting, and Darwish matches these visual effects with new music he describes as “hypnotic R&B.” Commandingly performed by the singer and keyboardist with the help of William Seiji Marsh on guitar and Russ Kleiner on drums, it’s a beautiful and intricately composed suite of music meant to present a narrative about human ego and spirituality.
Here’s the thing, though: live music already is a visual art. Good performers—and Darwish and his band mates are very good—have enough charisma in their playing, if not in their stage antics, to be perfectly compelling to the eye. The gorgeous Hammond S6 organ that Darwish tracked down for this project is all the stage set you need once he starts making it sing. I don’t mean to detract too much from the thoughtfully conceived multimedia elements of the show, which at times were remarkably touching. It’s just that these visuals were most effective when there wasn’t as much going on in the music; once the band really got going, I mostly just wanted to watch them shred.
Ben Darwish: The Lonely Nights
Ethos at IFCC
The bottom line is that you should go see this show, because it’s fantastic music that a busy man like Darwish—whose band Morning Ritual just released their debut album—might not perform again for some time. The visuals might have ranged from truly moving to seemingly unnecessary, but I promise: you won’t need anything more than the band gives you.