The Morning Benders wrapped up a lengthy tour with a performance at Webster Hall on Thursday night, with lead singer and guitarist Christopher Chu noting that they’ve played 146 shows since March. The Berkeley, CA-based quartet also includes Jonathan Chu (Chris’s younger brother) on guitars and keyboards, Tim Or on bass and Julian Harmon on drums. 

The group had the audience’s undivided attention as they poured through a melodic set of retro-tinged indie-pop songs, mostly from the sophomore album, Big Echo.  Included were the reverb-drenched gems “Hand Me Downs” and “Stitches,” the sunny “All Day Daylight,” “Mason Jar” and “Promises,” as well as the Hollies reminiscent “Boarded Doors,” from the 2008 debut album, Talking Through Tin Cans.

When the youthful crowd didn’t pick up on Chu’s cues to get into the groove on “Cold War (Nice Clean Fight),” he later commented, “We gave you a chance to dance earlier, and you didn’t deliver,” before picking up the pace again with “Waiting for a War.”  It worked that time – the floor started to shake. 

The Morning Benders played a convincing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 smash hit “Dreams,” with Chu doing his best Stevie Nicks impression alongside pleasant full band vocal harmonies.  Midway through the song they were briefly joined onstage by Twin Sister’s Andrea Estella.

Chris Chu solidified his place among the best of the current indie crooners with a spectacular display on the waltz-esque Everly Brothers-influenced “Excuses.”  Momentarily trading his guitar for a shaker, he moved along the edge of the stage, drumming up the crowd for an old-fashioned sing-along, before donning the guitar again for a climatic ending that had him, Jonathan Chu and Tim Or all on the floor churning out massive reverb.  For the encore, the band played a lovely new, non-album track, “Virgins.”

The evening started out with impressive sets from two other fast-rising retro-leaning bands, Cults and Twin Sister, each with their own delightful spin on Sixties pop.

- Teresa Sampson, Photos by Teresa Sampson

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