Ben Cooper a.k.a. Radical Face just started touring fresh off the release his sophomore album, Family Tree: The Roots. After releasing two EP’s in between his first, Ghosts. I was able to catch Cooper’s last US tour date before he headed off to Europe then Asia; a sold out show for his first ever in New York.
“Where’s Abby?” Cooper inquired at the unknowing crowd. An ecstatic yell from the back of the room informed the whole audience of Abby’s whereabouts.
“Abby is my friend and she flew all the way from Germany to see me,” Cooper said, slightly blushing at the lovely act of friendship.
“You wasted your money Abby, we’re really not that good.” Of course there was a hint of sarcasm in Cooper’s voice, the room was packed with fans who knew all the words of every song, but there was a humble tone that backed that statement with how Cooper really felt. He didn’t necessarily think his music wasn’t good, but more along the lines of a genuine surprise when the audience greeted him with applause upon his arrival.
The Studio at Webster is a hipster’s dream. It’s small, the room can fit no more than 300 people, there’s no grate in front of the stage and the sound mixing/quality is not always perfect. Not to mention they’ve had a countless “I’ve heard of them before you” acts come through (Vampire Weekend, The Bravery, Peter, Bjorn & John, etc.).
Cooper, along with his long time friends Jeremiah Johnson and Jack Ringca, in addition to the Cloud Family Singers from Williamsport, Pennsylvania orchestrated an incredible set at the Studio.
It started with Cooper, Johnson and Ringca playing some old favorites and new hits; the highlight of which was the opener “Wrapped in Piano Strings.” The song features Cooper’s contemplative lyrics, reflecting on life and telling stories in a similar way to the master, Sufjan Stevens. What makes the lyrics different from Stevens is, even though the verses contain the same repeated melodic line (which is reminiscent of Stevens), they have different words. The steady drums and the pulsing guitar and piano gave the show a drive, a unique energy that was simple, nearly as humble as Cooper himself, but also impressively powerful.
The set rolled along; highlights being songs from his new album, A Pound of Flesh, Ghost Towns and Mountains. It did feature the Cloud Family Singers, but the group was timid at first. Every song they grew more and more confident until they hit their stride at the end of the set during Cooper’s most famous song; Welcome Home, Son. Here the choir blended perfectly creating an ethereal sound that was calming; a compliment to the dark lyrics and beautiful melody lines by Cooper. “This song is supposed to feature a huge choir, so if you want to sing along,” said Cooper and, by the start of the second chorus, every single person in the Studio that night was singing they lyric “I’ve come home” right in unison with Cooper.
The encore included my favorite Radical Face song Glory, a very literal explanation of family history in Family Portrait, and the surprisingly lighthearted ending with the mash-up of Not in Nottingham and Oo De Lally from the Disney classic Robin Hood. After an uplifting ending that had Ringca and Johnson dancing around the stage with tambourines, Cooper put down his guitar for the night, wished the fans one final goodbye and left with every single spectator wanting more.