MIFFLINBURG — Royal Benson rocked the house Sept. 14 at Mifflinburg’s Elias Center for the Performing Arts. Tight, danceable, jammy electric grooves were the order of the evening. With Adam Tarin on keyboards and vocals, Matt Fern on guitar and vocals, Tim Myers on five-string bass, Jordan Thompson on drums and Dicky Adams on saxes, the Elias Center delivered great sound in its beautifully-restored setting. Their two sets featured original songs from both of their albums and one song that was so new that it had not yet been named. In addition, they covered The Commodores, The Beatles, Traffic, and the Grateful Dead with their own signature funky precision.
In many bands, one musician emerges as the flashy showpiece player out front while the rest of the group serves a backup role. All members of Royal Benson could be that front guy. Yet the overall sound of the ensemble was what took priority that night. Keyboardist Tarin claims to be the worst keyboard player in the band (and he’s no slouch) if that’s any indication of the musicianship these five bring to the table. At one point or another, everybody was featured soloing, trading licks, listening, syncopating, leaving space, and filling that space.
Even the songs they choose to cover sounded like originals. Their version of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” had a nice underlying groove found nowhere on the Fab Four original. And as they were weaving in and out of the Traffic classic “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” it was exhilarating to be periodically reminded that “Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s ‘Low Spark’ they’re working out over.”
As much as Royal Benson’s sound is about the groove, their compositions typically include lovely melodies and harmonies over lush arrangements. They regularly pull back the instruments to highlight the vocals. It’s obvious they have worked together for a number of years.
Another bonus at the show was Tarin’s frequent use of the Elias Center’s upright piano. Most working bands don’t have the luxury of traveling with their own acoustic piano, so he was clearly enjoying knowing it sounded great in there.
Next time Royal Benson (or any band with dance-inducing proclivities) plays there, the Elias Center might want to consider pushing back the balcony pews for some dancing. That said, most folks will probably remain in their seats to enjoy the show. (“Not a bad seat in the house” holds true there.) It’s a concert venue unlike any other in the Valley. And word has been getting out.