Ben Kenney w/ Khari Mateen at The Moroccan Lounge, Los Angeles, CA, December 21, 2018.
Review and Pictures: Marie Randall
This show at the Moroccan was Ben Kenney’s first solo show in the LA-area in a number of years, having played at the Glass House and The Roxy in 2013 in support of his last album, “Leave On Your Makeup“. Incubus recently wrapped a world tour at KROQ’s Halloween Ball at The Fonda and this show gave Kenney a chance to run through some of his older material and try out some new songs he’s been working on while Incubus are on break.
For those unfamiliar with Ben Kenney, he’s got 5 solo albums (all available for streaming) and a stellar back story. Prior to joining Incubus, Ben was a guitarist in The Roots and did session work for Justin Timberlake and Erykah Badu to name just a few. He was also in the groups Supergrub and The Division Group. His solo work is an eclectic mix of rock, punk, jazz, and hip-hop. Next year will see Incubus’ appearance at several music festivals.
Silhouetted by a single light, Ben Kenney strapped on his guitar and took to the stage of The Moroccan Lounge for his song “You“. This would be the only slow song of the night, as he was then joined by his band mates, drummer Sekou Lumumba and longtime collaborator, bassist Ashley Mendel.
“We’re all friends here, right?” Kenney asked those in attendance, who then replied in the affirmative. And with that, the trio launched into 90 minutes of hooks-laden rock reminiscent of all the best power trios: The Police, Rush, King’s X.
It goes without saying that the audience was made up of Incubus faithful, which wrapped around the venue prior to the doors opening. But they weren’t there merely because Ben is the bassist in Incubus. They were most definitely there for Ben and his music. They knew all the words and sang along to all the songs. And it was clear he was appreciative. The intimacy of The Moroccan Lounge facilitated some interesting banter between Ben and his audience. A man in the audience yelled out “I love you, Ben Kenney!” to which Ben replied, “I’m afraid I can’t commit quite yet, ’til I get to know you better…but I WILL fuck you.” Ben also took advantage of the small venue to try out some jokes. Like this gem: “What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idear.” Ba dum bum.
The Moroccan Lounge is a new-ish lounge/concert venue, opened in 2017 and located in the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The concert area is located in a smaller back room, separate from the lounge. The light and sound quality is fantastic and the small stage guarantees the audience an up-close experience.
Before going into his song “Not Today“, he reached for the headphones he sometimes wears on stage and jokingly revealed that he’s actually listening to techno. He played “Gravity“, a song by his old band, The Division Group. For the song “Fluorescent Yellow” he dedicated the first 30 seconds to his friend and then proceeded to play the opening riff to Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love“. “Fluorescent Yellow” then morphed into The Police’s “Regatta de Blanc“. He told the audience that he was indeed working on new material and proceeded to play one, “No Lives“. He also reached back 20 years to play “Pho 75“, a song from another of his old bands, Supergrub. He threw in an homage to his favorite artist, Prince, with a cool cover of “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man“. He then wrapped up the evening with “Eulogy“.
As a parting gift, Ben gave everyone in attendance a vinyl copy of his last album, “Leave On Your Makeup“.
The opener was singer/ songwriter/ instrumentalist/ producer Khari Mateen. During his set, Ben Kenney shared that the two met when Khari was a teenager. Like Ben, he’s from Philly and also worked with and produced The Roots. Throughout his 35 minute set, he switched between electric cello and acoustic guitar. Khari’s songs were a mix of pop, R&B, neo-soul, and rap with positive, uplifting lyrics.