Gig Review: Donny Benet

Friday 10th October @ Brighton Up Bar

There is no way to begin talking about Donny Benet, without prefixing that he is ‘The Man’. He walks around with the posture and poise of a man who has been touched by God (not in a, like, creepy way) and wants to share his wisdom with the world. For that, he graces the stages of Sydney and beyond, armed with only a well-groomed moustache, a saxophone and a mane that creates pangs of envy in Mufasa. If there were an SOS line for those in need of some pure sexiness, it’d be 1800-DONNY.

All that charm, whimsy and sex-appeal is doubtlessly hard for one man to contain to himself, and so a few weeks back, Donny released his third record, and first collaboration album, ‘Weekend At Donny’s’. Needless, to say, the launch for such an album is enough to create shivers of infidelity in even the most faithful of humanity. Packing that much sweat-inducing material into a single room is like demanding for a sex-plosion. Which is exactly what was delivered.

Before audio-coitus was engaged, You Beauty performed a pretty bloody orrite set of footy-inspired classics. After an extended absence from the field, it was excellent to see Will Farrier carry his team of misfits through another game and kick a dunk in the pool (I’m out of footy puns). Armed with only some speedies, a bum bag and a jersey of a team who’ve probably seen their heyday, You Beauty were an act of constantly glorious dishevelment. Delivered through yelps and croons, soon-to-be classics like “Scent Of My Youth” and “Ann-Marree” were extreme cases of audience involvement. Farrier stalked the venue, prowling amongst grinning members as the band played on, their glassy, reflective Mac DeMarco-esque providing a damn perfect backdrop for the Sunday arvo game. I lied when I said I was out of footy puns. Anyway, after a few dick jokes, an extended monologue on Donny Benet’s second life as fixie-addict ‘Assman81’, and some caressing tunes, You Beauty bowed out with a rousing re-indition of “Off the Bench”.

Before long, Donny Benet and his show band are on the small stage, prepared to shock and awe. Meanwhile, Brighton has swelled to sold-out status, and with that motion, the room is an overbearing battering of sticky heat. Then, The Don begins, and what was already a known as a notch above Satan’s sauna becomes a cubicle of flustering passion. Donny brings the touch like he always does, but there’s a connection there that glows that much stronger. Maybe it’s because it’s the launch of a new album, but Donny and his band are on fire.

After working through some sensual solo cuts including “Sophisticated Lover” and “Electric Love”, ex-Crayon Fields figurehead and present solo artiste Geoffrey O’Connor steps up to the plate. Having never seen O’Connor before, the man was severely impressive. He takes the lead, mastering his way through his slinky contributions “Never Alone” and “Charlotte’s Web”. The latter is particularly impressive, with a new lease not quite reached on record, wafting around the room with distinction that mirrored a lost mid-80’s gem wrought from a synth pad where Prince and David Byrne met for the first and last time.

Jack Ladder, whose own band The Dreamlanders Donny is a part of, steps up next, and floors all. Whilst Geoffrey O’Connor provided the foreplay, Jack Ladder, who is doused in a loose-fitting suit and sunglasses, leans his looming frame onto a mic stand and heavily lays down his baritone paste onto thrilled ears. He’s Nick Cave minus the pretentiousness, a character that you can’t help but want to grab a beer with. His first insert, “Only Child”, is a twinkling but headstrong beast, dazzling and mighty at the same time. His second, “Sex Tourist” is a more darkly hilarious effort, an unblinking horror story presented as a plush, dirty jam. Watching a tale like that unfold on a stage is what dreams are made of.

Finally, SPOD takes the stage, playing “Gentleman’s Choice” and “Fantasies”, and the collective orgasm in the room shook the building to its core. As the top-shelf liquor fell to the floor, shattering spills pooling across the bar, SPOD screamed, yelled and seduced. This sight, it was truly something to behold – Donny Benet and SPOD intertwining underneath the funkiest basslines ever laid down on this barren planet. It was enough to make world peace seem feasible. Shit, it was enough to crack the cold demeanour of Steven Seagal, if he had happened to rock up. And yeah, I did just make it apparent that world peace is easier than getting a chuckle from Mr. Under Siege. The dude is a brick wall. But in that whirlwind collaboration between two of Sydney’s greatest, anything, and I do mean, anything was possible.

Finishing out the night with an encore, after some persuasively thundering applause and cheering, was one of Donny’s finest heights as a musician, “The Edge” was unveiled. Even though key collaborator Kirin J. Callinan and his signature silver tongue were absent, Donny held his own, and more than effectively penetrated even the most cynical onlooker’s happiness glands. I don’t think I’ve moved my pelvis as hard as I did that night, nor do I think, did the sea of wild-eyed ravers, who were beget with Mr. Benet’s ultimate sounds. On record, ‘The Edge’ is a starch-white, synth-laden exploration of the deepest pockets of space and pleasure, rocketing at the speed of an Elton John bender, and Donny’s live performance did it justice.

The most common complaint of Donny Benet stems from people’s inability to split his music and performance as a parody or homage, and genuine talent. Well, I see it as a combination of both, and worrying about the details is irrelevant. Donny and his band make fantastic music, and they bring it alive on stage in a way that few, if any, can. He knows how to get a party started with original baby-makers, and anyone who can’t recognise the greatness of that is in sore need of some Electric Love. When combined with some of the brightest and salivating acts in the country right now, who each brought their own flair and extravagance to Brighton’s tiny, sweaty room, there truly was reason to celebrate a new Donny Benet record.

‘Weekend at Donny’s’ is out now on Rice Is Nice Records. Review here.

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