Ben Harper & Relentless7. September 29, 2011.
Electric Factory. Philadelphia, PA.
Grace Woodroofe opening.
Ben Harper shows are special moments that last for hours and linger for days. The raw emotion and energy that is communicated and exchanged between Harper and his fans can be felt before he even takes the stage. I felt it a week before the show. So for the first of three upcoming Harper shows, BlueSkyCampfires traveled north to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.
As a general rule there are a couple things I always do, or try not to do. First, I don’t wear the shirt of the band I’m going to see. Women can get away with that but I can’t. I also don’t listen to the artist for at least a week before the show. I like to keep the feeling fresh. I want to open myself to the experience that night has to offer me, and when it comes to Ben Harper you know you’ll be satisfied one way or another. Whether he’s playing with The Innocent Criminals, Blind Boys of Alabama, Fistful Of Mercy, Relentless7, or solo, you’re going to get that man’s soul that night and nothing less.
After bearing the traffic through DC and Baltimore, the road opened up to Philly and we found ourselves, happily surprised, early enough to be in line for the doors to open, which loosely translated means front row!!!
The biggest perk to arriving early though was Grace Woodroofe. New to the scene from Australia, Woodroofe’s debut album is being produced by Harper himself, and what better way to promote her than bringing her on tour. Once on stage though, Grace took care of the rest. I can only describe her live sound as fierce. When she sings it, you feel it, no questions asked. Hearing everything for the first time, I was immediately drawn to Grace’s explosive, heart-stopping roars on Nocturnal and Oh My God. Then, like everyone else in the crowd, I was entranced by I’ve Handled Myself Wrong and H. I looked at my wife and she couldn’t stop smiling. I turned to my friends around me and all I could say was ‘wow’.
Next up, Ben Harper. When he takes the stage you know you’re not just there to watch him play music, you’re there to experience it with him. The band played for nearly 3 hours and the song selections spanned across Harper’s entire career. Nothing seemed to be off limits. They played everything, from the opening Glory & Consequence, which turned into a brief cover of Pearl Jam’s Jeremy and then back again, to Suzie Blue, to an extended jam version of Lay There And Hate Me. Harper also introduced a new song, Masterpiece, which to steal his words, was a masterpiece. Sometimes the whole band was playing, sometimes it was just Ben, sitting or standing in the center of the stage. He closed out the first set singing the Blind Boy’s Where Could I Go. After the first verse he pushed the mic aside and stood at the front of the stage singing a cappella. If you didn’t get goosebumps from that, you’re not human.
The energized crowd never waned as we cheered wildly for an encore. The 6-song set showcased more of Ben’s acoustic talents as he slid his way through Lifeline, and with the help of the crowd, belted out classics like Walk Away and Forever. The night slowly faded with the sounds of another new song, Better Than I Deserve.
I got home from Philly around 5am and was back at my day job by 9am, but I’m not complaining, that’s Rock & Roll.
- Jason Mozersky, Jordan Richardson, Ben Harper, Jesse Ingalls, and Justin Pate.
- A wide ranging setlist featured songs from throughout Harper’s career.
- Harper played everything he could reach. Lap guitar, acoustic, electric…
- Grace Woodroofe delivers greetings from Australia.
For more concert photos visit BlueSkyCampfires on Flickr.