Ben Rector delivers a joyous and captivating performance in his home state of Oklahoma, celebrating the release of his newest album, The Joy of Music.
A sure sign of summer in Oklahoma City is the Zoo Ampitheatre opening for their summer concert series. Directly adjacent to the OKC Zoo, the venue sits on a green hillside and features a large stage with the capability of supporting complex stage set-ups and immaculate light shows. The venue is completely outdoor, with the fresh air offering a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy some of the nation’s biggest musical acts.
Oklahoma fans eagerly filed into the venue to enjoy live music by one of their very own, Ben Rector. The crowd consisted of many families, with fans of all ages in attendance. First to start the show were Stephen Day and Jordy Searcy. Though appearing on stage together, they emphasized that they were not one band, but two separate artists. They played a short set together, featuring original songs by each of them. When they performed one of Jordy Searcy’s songs, Searcy would sing and play guitar while Stephen Day would support him on backing vocals and bass. When they would perform a Stephen Day original, Day would play guitar and sing, and Searcy would support him by playing bass. Searcy’s music can be described as “organic songwriter pop,” and he sings with an almost yodel-like twang to his voice. Day sings with a very full tone, and flips easily between his lower range and falsetto, showing off an impressive range and supported tone throughout his songs. At one point, Day shows off his low range by covering a small part of “Your Man” by country artist Josh Turner. Jordy Searcy showed off his guitar chops by playing an intricate and exciting acoustic guitar solo during his original song “Rich”. The crowd was delighted and let out a raucous cheer upon hearing Searcy’s impressive guitar skills.Next to take the stage was pop singer, Jake Scott. He starts his set with the sound of an atmospheric guitar solo ringing throughout the venue, building the crowd’s anticipation for his arrival on the stage. He gets right to the crowd favorites, starting with “Like No One Does.” Throughout his set, Scott dances and skips across the stage, making great use of the large stage, though his band only consists of him and two other members. At one point, Scott plays a song at the piano called “She,” which is about his wife whom he talks about several times throughout the night. This led to a memorable moment when a member of the audience announced that this was the song played at their wedding. Following this touching moment, Scott performs his only cover of the evening, ”All Too Well” by Taylor Swift. He ends his set with “Favorite T-Shirt,” which is another popular hit of his. This is Jake Scott’s last tour date with Ben Rector. He put on a passionate, memorable performance to end his run on the tour. The crowd anxiously awaits the main event, Ben Rector. As his set begins, the lights go dim and a red muppet-like monster walks on and takes a seat at the grand piano centered in the middle of the stage. He begins to play piano, and a few familiar faces also make their way to the stage. Jordy Searcy and Stephen Day, who opened the show, take their places on stage along with the rest of the band. Ben Rector joins the stage, the crowd goes wild, and they all begin to perform “Dream On” from his newest album, The Joy of Music. The stage setup is fairly simple, with almost no stage props and a straightforward impactful light show. The main focal point was a grand piano with a vintage lamp setting on top of it and a red carpet underneath.
Following the first song, Ben gives the red muppet monster (named Joy) a big hug and Joy leaves the stage. This speaks to the wholesomeness of the show. Ben is accompanied by a large band, consisting of eight members total, including himself. There is a wide range of instruments, including two percussionists, a saxophone/synthesizer player, two guitarists, a backing vocalist, a bassist, and Ben himself, who plays piano and sings. Rector did not shy away from sharing the spotlight with his band, whom he featured several times throughout the night, giving Jordy and Stephen their own moments to sing. He also introduces his saxophone player, David Besonen, to the audience. He tells a story of how the saxophone player was originally a fan who sent Rector a video of himself playing a saxophone cover of one of Rector’s songs. Rector liked the cover so much that he offered to take the young musician on tour. The saxophone player also doubled as a synthesizer player, which Rector mentioned was a rarity. Throughout the night, the saxophone player shows off his high technical skill and impressive musicality through velvety saxophone solos that took everyone’s breath away.
You can tell how important family and friends are to Rector. At one point, Rector recognizes his old college dorm mate is in the audience and takes a moment to tell a story about him, and states that he’d like to catch up with him after the show. He mentions the importance of his family and his daughter and begins the song “Daughter,” which begins with a sweet sound clip of his daughter talking. Towards the end of the night, Rector and his band play an impressive six-minute medley of classic rock songs, including a bit of “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy. The entire night consisted of several crowd favorites, multiple appearances from Joy, and fascinating storytelling from Rector. He closed his set by walking through the crowd, which was a moment that fans really loved. It was an evening that won’t soon be forgotten.Words by: Mallory Forsgren
Photos by: Tyler Williams