Ben Harper gave his heart and soul to a sold out crowd at Boston’s Bank of America Pavilion, with a set-list full of established fan favorites, and newer material that is gradually working its way into the former category. Opening his set with “Take My Hand,” off of 2004’s There Will Be a Light, Harper effectively showed everyone in attendance that he meant business. Switching things up from his standard 6-string, Harper showcased his sweet and creamy voice alongside his sharp-as-glass slide guitar licks.
Harper dedicated “Get It like You like It" to Boston, and even switched up the words to incorporate some Sox friendly lyrics about ending a certain 86-year curse. Needless to say, this won grand ovation from all of the pride-instilled Bostonians in attendance. However, this was far from a necessary step to work up the crowd. After tearing through high energy tunes like “Glory and Consequence,” Harper and his Innocent Criminals switched pace, and mind-frame, to more acoustic songs like “Waiting for You,” and “Morning Yearning.” The raw emotion the songs present gave all the couples in the crowd a sappy sense of rekindled love.
It was on these tracks that Ben Harper’s stage persona truly shone. With many singer/songwriters, there is a feel of egotism that accompanies having a band with your own name in the front. However, with Harper’s performance, there is a selfless quality to his stage presence that gives his fans the feeling that they are not being “performed for” as much as having the music shared with them.
Harper offers a view of both love and pain through his songs, and the latter was no more apparent than on “Black Rain,” as it scolds the Bush administration’s incompetent response to the tragedy Hurricane Katrina laid down on the impoverished citizens of New Orleans. Ripping into the legalization-friendly “Burn one Down,” the smell of ganja flooded the senses of everyone in the venue, as the tune provided ample opportunity for folks in the crowd to engage in a sing-a-long to end all sing-a-longs. The set closed with Harper tearing through Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” and then a grand finale of the rocking-yet-somber “Better Way.”
As the night came to a close, Ben Harper and his Innocent Criminals offered their loyal following a set of fan favorites, and fierce instrumentalization that left everyone satisfied. Harper failed to offer any answers to the bigger problems facing society, but that’s far from why folks attended in the first place. The night’s music offered social insights, and spiritual undertones, providing sure relief from most folks’ everyday problems.
Photos by Scott Fleishman