Ben Arnold and his band get #NONCOMM off to a rollicking start - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Getting the #NONCOMM proceedings under way on the Lounge stage of World Cafe Live, WXPN’s Dan Reed said that when he began planning the first in-person NON-COMM since 2019, he wasn’t sure who he wanted to play first — who was the right artist to set the tone for the week, to celebrate the event’s return to in person, and to celebrate  its 20th year. And then it occurred to him: singer-songwriter vet Ben Arnold.

“He’s from right here in Philly, and he embodies the spirit of this town,” said Reed, and Arnold went on to deliver on that promise with a rollicking performance that spanned New Orleans grooves and Philly soul, Randy Newman-esque pop anthems and simmering Band-esque instrumental interplay. “Stupid Love,” the song opening the set, was a pure celebration, and Arnold and his co-musicians kept the energy high for the next 20 minutes.

In addition to his core band of Jonathan Coleman on bass, Erik Sayles on guitar and Matt Muir on drums, Arnold was augmented by backing vocalists Hannah Taylor and Sarah Bee, with horn players David Kershner on trumpet and Jim Verdeur on saxophone. It was a slightly reconfigured version of Ben’s trademark 48 hour orchestra (who played XPoNential Music Festival in 2016), and it brought his music together with high-energy and panache.

“Only Human” from Sunday Morning Meltdown simmered and swung, “Nobody Hurtin Like Me” from Lost Keys simmered down to a place of stirring contemplation, punctuated by a scorching solo from Sayles, and the radiant “Thankful” took us out on a high and captured how a lot of the room was feeling. Arnold’s most recent release is the live album Go Play In The Backyard! and his next gig is June 25th at Upper Merion’s Concerts Under The Stars series; more information can be found at his website.

Ben Arnold: "Stupid Love" (NON-COMM 2022)
Ben Arnold: "Nobody's Hurtin Like Me" (NON-COMM 2022)
Ben Arnold
  • Stupid Love
  • Everywhere You Go
  • Only Human
  • Nobody Hurtin' Like Me
  • Thankful
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