Image by: Ivan Karczewski
Concert Reviews

Concert Review: Ben Harper delights his fans last night at Logan Campbell

Roger Bowie

Matt Corby was already under way when I get my seat, for some reason going early. And, poor homeworker that I am, I expected a solo performance, but here he was, solo, surrounded by no less than 7 band members.

IK MATT CORBY 10

Mmmmm, I recall some thirty years back when John Hiatt completely upstaged Robert Cray at this venue. Will it happen tonight?

Matt Corby’s music is hard to pin down, except that it comes from somewhere else, several decades ago, but also has a poppy feel which attracts those with no memory or experience of times passed. It’s got soul, it’s got blues, it’s got a little funk, but above all else soul, as evidenced by the Roy Ayers cover which comes halfway through the hour-long set. But it’s cool, soothing, and it’s very hot in here at Logan Campbell. I may not know him, but the audience does, very supportive, and certainly younger.

IK MATT CORBY 01

But it’s great to see the old music being refreshed and revived by smart young bands, and that is what Matt is doing.

Playing a selection of songs which mostly are to be found on his recent release Rainbow Valley, Matt croons his way modestly through his set, alternating between guitar, keyboards and a mini drum set. He has a great band with him tonight, but on the album, he plays all the music.

It’s a little strange, he doesn’t sound like any of his idols and influencers, like Crosby Stills and Nash, or Buddy Guy, but he does crossover, so I can retreat to my backstop, and call it Americana Soul, maybe with blue eyes.

IK MATT CORBY 15

Towards the end of the set, he ups the tempo, adding rock and blues to the mix, with two standout songs, Resolution and Souls A’Fire before closing out and putting down his instruments to offer a Miracle Love.

Very cool. It’s not the slam dunk I saw in John Hiatt all those years ago, but………I bought the CD.

Set List:

  1. Monday
  2. No Ordinary Life
  3. All That I See
  4. New Day Coming
  5. Get with The Times
  6. Sooth Lady Wine
  7. Brother
  8. Everybody Loves the Sunshine ( Roy Ayers cover)
  9. Better
  10. Elements
  11. Resolution
  12. Souls A’Fire
  13. Miracle Love

 

IK BEN HARPER 02 

Ben Harper is no stranger to these shores, and his Criminals are far from Innocent. But it’s hard to believe he only hit the scene 25 years ago. Seems like he’s been around forever.

A big legion of fans were on hand last  night when he took the stage, at 8.39pm, and did not disappoint with a selection of songs which leaned heavily on his earlier work, from 1995’s sophomore album Fight For Your Mind, through to 2003’s Diamonds in the Light

IK BEN HARPER 16

A brief lap-steel solo, which hints at an opening to Oppression, falls short of that promise but instead segues into Gold to Me, and the audience is in raptures. And why not, it’s that cruisy, funky, good time, good feeling music which emanates from the eclectic sounds of Ben Harper. The intro to Steal My Kisses has the crowd on lead vocals before Ben takes a breath. Percussionist Leon Mobley is up front on his Djembe, one of the many African drums which he uses to powerful effect (diversion: check this guy out, he’s a master of West African drumming), but doesn’t miss the opportunity to rush back to his array of drums to add a flourish here and there. With a perpetual smile.

IK BEN HARPER 20

Juan Nelson on funky bass adds his tenor voice to the mix, and we are entirely criminalised. Complicit. Oliver Charles on drums completes the gang. Ben brings out the falsetto for The Woman In You, which starts as a ballad, but then rises and falls in seemingly a final crescendo, before stretching out into funky rock which goes……well….on and on. Next song please!

It’s easy to forget, as he Burns one Down, what an accomplished guitarist he is, as he switches to acoustic. Another dazzling Mobley solo, and already, there’s a certain aroma in the air, which isn’t body odour, although I’m sure there’s plenty of that around tonight as well. Sweet, smelly stoners.

IK BEN HARPER 01 

Strikes me that we don’t hear much Hendrix played live these days, but here is Ben, seated with guitar on flat, taking us through Are You Experienced, which also strikes me as being a lesser known Jimi thing, certainly the song itself if not the title. Segues into Superstition and we get back to back homage to two of the greats.

The band now retreats, and Ben goes solo, firstly acoustic on Walk Away, then a little more electric on Roses from My Friends.  An electric Cat Stevens.

IK BEN HARPER 08

Band comes back on but are still in the dark as Ben embarks on a long solo piece, which may or may not be a touch indulgent, before they launch into When its Good.

A funky Fight for Your Mind is up next before Juan announces that it’s time for him and Ben to have some fun as they duel their way through a series of funk questions and answers, but the only question I have is why? Not sure this is necessary, but ok, let them have their fun. Finally, I get what I’m waiting for, as they launch into Buddy MilesThem Changes. We could have a Band of Gypsys on stage!

Ground on Down brings back memories, Diamonds on the Inside brings Ben forward to sing without mic, and the normally boisterous audience respectfully quieten to allow a special moment.

There’s no Better Way to finish a set, as I creep downstairs to see how it sounds in the crowded standing only area. I must say, I’ve had some shockers at Logan Campbell, but these guys have got it right, so well done to the sound team!!

 IK BEN HARPER 25

Yes there are encores, but I sneak off to avoid the car-park scramble. It’s been a great night. I’m impressed by how Ben Harper has kept his audience, more or less in the same demographic, over his career. There are some here tonight who have grown up with him, but there are also many who were too young, unless they were rocked in the cradle, to be there at the beginning.

I’m sure he’ll be back.

Set List:

  1. Gold to Me
  2. Steal My Kisses
  3. The Woman in You
  4. Burn One Down
  5. Are You Experienced? (Hendrix cover)
  6. Superstition (Stevie Winder cover)
  7. Walk Away
  8. Roses from My Friends
  9. When It’s Good
  10. Forever
  11. Fight for Your Mind
  12. Them Changes
  13. Ground on Down
  14. Diamonds on the Inside
  15. Better Way

Encore:

  1. She’s Only Happy in the Sun
  2. Amen Omen
  3. Glory & Consequence/Jeremy

 

Radio 13 credits and thanks Ivan Karczewski for all images in this review.

 

 

Written By: Roger Bowie Roger Bowie has been collecting music since 1964, starting with 45 rpm singles, and then building an LP and CD collection from 1970. 1.8 per week since then. Not a vast collection, but eclectic and occasionally obscure. Roger is a big Americana fan, and regularly attends AmericanaFest in Nashville, held every September. Also, he once played golf with Alice Cooper...