Ben Lee/ Rooney
Orlando, FL Oct. 25, 2006
by Jen Cray
The Fun Fun Fun Tour it's called. How could you not want to check that one out? Esspecially when Ben Lee and Rooney are sharing the bill! The opening night of the tour kicked off at Orlando's very crowded (with mostly girls in their early 20's who had shown up and gotten drunk while drooling over the likes of Rooney) The Social.
John Ralston, the folksinger from Central Florida who just got off a tour with Dashboard Confessional, warmed the room with his heart-on-sleeve outpourings of emotion. Clearly enthralled with the modest man, the crowd hangs on his every tune. Speaking of tunes, "Gone Gone Gone" is one great song and yes, he played it.
With their infectious, 60's sounding pop melodies and big stage presence, it's a wonder Rooney haven't gone more mainstream than they have. Lead singer/guitarist Robert Carmine (brother of actor/musician Jason Schwartzman, nephew of Francis Ford Coppola and cousin to Nicolas Cage) comfortably commands the room with his sweet smile and playful taunting.
"We recorded our album over 3 years ago, so here's a new song instead... Come on. I know you're excited, " he teased.
At the end of their set, Carmine instructed the audience to put their arms in the air and then charmingly berated a guy who was too cool to raise 'em up. Rooney has got the charm, and the tunes, to grace the magazine covers, but for now they're just a well kept secret.
Let me tell ya a bit about Mr. Ben Lee. The Australian pop singer put out his first album, 1994's Grandpaw Would, on the Beastie Boys' now defunct Grand Royal label when he was a mere 13 years old. What's more impressive than his premature writings is that those songs still sound just as great 12 years later as they did when I was 16.
Ben Lee has grown up, but the songs are still the same Paul Simon meets Beck portraits of honesty, and humor. Dressed in a shiny gold suit, Lee tosses a nod to the days of performers like Elvis, Cash and Neil Diamond. Showman who weren't afraid to dress up and maybe look a little foolish at times. Alongside his own catalog of pop songs, he threw in a quick cover of Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback." This could have been a joke, or could have been a sincere homage to the current international popster. Lee doesn't appear to be elitist in the least, and it would not surprise me one bit if the guy has a soft spot for good hooks and radio hits even if they are created by a former member of a boy band.
To see more photos of this, and other shows, go to www.jencray.com.