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Alec Benjamin played sweet, acoustic simplicity at the Varsity Theater

Alec Benjamin crafts songs that feel as if they were written in his bedroom.

The 24-year-old brought that same sense of both intimacy and comfortability while playing for a sold out Varsity Theater in Minneapolis Wednesday night.

Musically, Benjamin is easy to understand; he’s young, he’s in touch with his thoughts and feelings and he deftly knows his way around an acoustic guitar. As he wore high-water blue plaid sweatpants, white socks and black and white checkered Vans, the night was about simplicity in all aspects.

But simple isn’t a curse word here. 

The night’s setlist started with the driving, circular riffs of “Outrunning Karma,” for which the tour is named. Onstage with only his drummer, a synth keyboardist and a handful of picks jammed into his acoustic guitar, Benjamin was all set to bring the rest of his 2018 album, Narrated For You, to life.

His ear-catching riffs and textured melodies from songs like “Boy in the Bubble” and “Swim” showed off his deeper musical range, while tracks like the barebones of “Steve” and innocent “Water Fountain” showcased his effortless wordsmith skills.

As he played centerstage, that ability to craft lyrics, which not only articulate relatable (and cliche-free) situations of life but also create sonic environments, became more than evident.

He touched on aspects of thinking about aging parents and his relationship with his sister in “If We Have Each Other” to the sweet yet unrequited love (or just like-like) in “Annabelle’s Homework,” and that’s exactly where he connects with his audience.

Whether he took a break for a quick breath or intentionally stepped away from the mic, the lyrics were carried on without missing a beat by the many young voices in the room. His songs get stuck in brains easily, and not a single word was seemingly skipped over, especially evident in the smaller, intimate venue.

Stepping back, the singer-songwriter from Arizona has only the one full-length album under his belt so far, but similarities in style and musicality can already be made to some of the genre’s heavy hitters.

Benjamin has a distinct upper range voice similar to Passenger, lyrics that are easily consumed yet multi-layered akin to John Mayer and a range in guitar playing, tempo and style like early Ed Sheeran songs.

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While he was on-point musically throughout the show, energetic was not necessarily a word that could’ve been used to recap the night. Granted, his tunes aren’t for impassioned dancing or excitement, but he still stayed more or less in the same spot the entire night, aside from occasionally pacing the front row for a song or two.

Whether that’s just his personality type, his still relatively-new touring experience or just what he needed to do to simultaneously play and sing well, it did compliment his vibe – simple and sweet.

Near the end of the set, a moment that perfectly summed up his abilities came during the floating and haunting “Death of a Hero.” After marrying the song’s intricate picking and heavy lyrics, he finished the song a cappella, showing off the acoustic song’s trifecta of talent.

Benjamin said he had played the venue once before as an opener but always dreamed to come back on his own tour. 

“Today, we did it,” he said, thanking the audience.

If the night’s cheers, applause and sing-alongs didn’t prove it already, Alec Benjamin’s songwriting and lyrical crafting make it a safe bet that he’ll be back to play in Minneapolis on another tour of his own again soon enough. 

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