Bootleg Theater hosted Radical Face’s debut LA concert, an intimate performance with choral accompaniment by the Easterly Singers. Listening to Radical Face on record, Ben Cooper’s lush delivery of elegant folk melodies is striking. There is a narrative cohesion to his lyrics that suggests a powerful story behind the music. With much of the audience cross-legged on the ground before the stage, Ben secured his role as storyteller.
The band format—guitar, piano, drums, choir—was a sensitive approach to the delicacy of Radical Face’s material. On songs without the choir, like opener “Wrapped In Piano Strings” and “The Moon is Down,” Ben’s heady but natural backwoods vocals and the band’s sense of rhythm spearheaded what would have otherwise been stark, especially with the lack of bass. When the Easterly Singers did join in, they added extra color and grace. The body of the set ended with the anthemic “Welcome Home Son,” surpassing a threshold in energy and brilliance with soaring choral harmonies. Before the encore performance of “Glory,” Ben told its tale: a boy deserts war, falls in love, lives in hiding with the girl, and is ratted out by the girl and stoned to death. For such tragedy, the choir’s angelic arpeggios were triumphant.
Ben Cooper admitted that he doesn’t play many shows and frequently makes mistakes, but at the Bootleg his talent was unquestionable. He showed himself as a fairly normal guy from Florida who likes to create stories and tell them through music. As a storyteller, he continues the folk tradition, but in new terms – the terms of Radical Face.