BEN PARCELL at SCARBOROUGH’S ‘CAFÉ VENUS’. 18/11/11
Playing one of the most intimate shows conceivable, Bridlington-based Ben played a stunning mixture of originals and covers from an elevated part of a cosy café with a difference. Located just downwind of the town’s university campus, Café Venus prides itself on serving low-cost, high-quality vegetarian meals. What’s more, the owners are all for championing creative talent, hence why their ‘Venus Live’ performance evenings have come to be so anticipated amongst literary and musical aficionados. Given that Ben’s presently in the throes of studying for a degree in ‘Digital Media’ at Scarborough University, he was already familiar with the café before first stepping through its welcoming front door.
Buoyed up by recent gigs played in support of Ryan Spendlove and Chris Helme, Ben coolly launched into his forty-five minute set with a cover song that’s become a staple of almost every set he plays: ‘Good Riddance’. Staying true to its Greenday-penned roots, Ben then dove into ‘Close Your Eyes’, the opening track on his solo debut album ‘Humble Beginnings’. An upbeat anthem of repute, it provided the perfect introduction to Ben’s music for those in attendance who might have been unfamiliar with his acoustic-based style of singing and playing. Hot on the heels of releasing such a ten-track debut, Ben sought to write and then record some fresh tunes with Edwina Hayes, two cuts of which materialised in the equally as bewitching forms of ‘Painted By Numbers’ (after which his latest EP is named) and ‘Stay In Touch’, the latter tenderly focusing on the difficulty in moving on once a relationship ends. Indeed, it’s Ben’s emotional maturity which helps to seduce his listeners, his emotion-flecked voice soaring over his melodies, regardless of whether they’re frantically strummed or delicately finger-picked. Harking back to ‘Humble Beginnings’, a rendition of ‘The Only One’ proved to be a definite set highlight, while an extraordinary cover version of Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’ hushed even those who had previously dared chatter over their food. Later, a pitch-perfect interpretation of The Seahorses' ‘Blinded By The Sun’ further acknowledged the fact that Ben had supported Mr. Helme, who used to front the band, only the week before.
Serving to please everybody with his tasteful balance of self-composed tunes and well-known chart hits, he also treated one and all to a gorgeous cover of ‘Driftwood’, the classic Travis gem. However, and gratifyingly, Ben’s songs were awarded the most intense waves of applause, not least because he’s so sincere in the performing of them, a succession of complex chord progressions and daring guitar solos proving that he’s a sensationally accomplished musician. Having played guitar for more than ten years, Ben initially poured his creativity into a trio called The Trailers, a Bridlington band heavily influenced by Pop-Punk. These days, Ben is concentrating on cultivating a career as a serious singer-songwriter, keen to show that he can write songs that are as poetic as they are anthemic, as uplifting as they can be heartbreaking.
Closing with a lighthearted cover of ‘Baby Hit Me One More Time’, Ben grinned his way to the final chord, perhaps realising that his songs ooze far, far more substance than any old Britney Spears number could ever aspire to. Thanking the audience for their attention, Ben unplugged his guitar to embrace a figurative junction. Armed with a hundred gigs under his belt, and brimming with infectious passion about future musical endeavours, it seems safe to say that 2012 could well be the year in which Ben Parcell receives the nationwide acclaim that his natural talent and hard-working attitude both deserve.