This past weekend, Broadway saw the end of the beloved musical Once. In classic Broadway style, the show had a farewell performance at the Highline Ballroom on January 6th. The show featured members of the cast, as well as a special performance by actor Ben Hope’s band, The Uptown Outfit. We were lucky enough to attend and really get in the Once zone, especially with Hope’s help.
Hope is an actor and singer who brings a real country twang to his band in both sound and lyrics. It’s safe to say The Uptown Outfit fit perfectly with the folky, country-esque of the Once show. Right down to the harmonica and songs about his lost guitar, Hope delivers the kind of Southern essence and rhythm that you can’t help but move along to.
The Uptown Outfit opened with “Hey Y’all,” a song to set off the mood for the night. With the lyrics, “you don’t have to be a Southern man to enjoy a country song,” Hope invited all who had come out for the show, whether they were Once fans, or his fans, or just people looking for a good time. This opening was a lot of fun, and seeing Hope move and groove on stage made it even easier to clap and laugh along.
Hope kept up the energy with “On the Run,” and delivered a great smack of soul in “Drink Yourself Dead.” The mix of electric and acoustic guitar was well done, keeping the music modern but still rooted in the ways of old school country.
I mentioned Hope singing about his lost guitar already–a great anecdote about the song, “Colleen.” Hope was gifted the guitar by Garth Brooks, but without that tidbit the song would be just another brokenhearted ballad of lost love. The song’s true meaning shows Hope’s character and it was a quirky note the crowd loved.
Ben Hope and The Uptown Outfit continued with a couple songs that highlighted Hope’s vocal range, and later on we even got a little bit of a country “rap” with a catchy beat similar to that of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I was not as into the music when they slowed it down, but cannot deny that each song was delivered strongly right from the start. “Good Liar” was definitely a jam, and “Good Man” had a great beat–I really enjoyed hearing the drum come to life.
Speaking of drums, I was excited to see Ben Hope return to the stage during the Once performances not only to sing and play guitar, but to play drums, as well.
The Uptown Outfit has an album, Ragged and Rowdy, coming out February 24, 2015, and I’m glad I got to hear them ahead of time. I think Hope’s opportunities in Once and his other roles (Ring of Fire, Hank Williams: Lost Highway, The Buddy Holly Story) will prove to be a great resource for his band’s future. They have a lot of talent and energy, and if you’re looking for a simple, swinging good time, definitely check Hope out.