Live review: Ben Harper @ the Ogden Theatre, Day 1By Candace Horgan | June 7th, 2011 | 3 comments
Ben Harper seems to genuinely love his audience, and was overwhelmed by the response he got in a sweltering Ogden Theatre Monday night (and kudos to the security for passing out free water like it was candy). Over the course of nearly two hours, Harper displayed his full-on schizophrenic best to an adoring crowd.
Harper opened the set alone on his acoustic guitar with his classic “Burn One Down,” with the crowd, knowing the words by heart, singing along. He followed it with a full-on electric band rave up on a blazing “Rock ‘n Roll is Free,” from his new disc “Give Till It’s Gone.” It set the tone for the entire night.
Whenever Harper went quieter, as on an acoustic breakdown halfway through “Diamonds On The Inside,” complete with fingerpicking that was very reminiscent of Jorma Kaukonen, the crowd sang along and enjoyed the moment. Harper then would turn around and come back with electric pyrotechnics that got raised hands and anthemic responses worthy of U2 or Led Zeppelin (more on that in a moment).
Harper also enjoyed telling stories. After playing a heartbreakingly delicate “Another Lonely Day,” he said that if he kept playing that song much more, “I’ll end up in a padded cell.” He told the real story behind “Burn One Down,” (it’s not what you might think), and related an over-the-top story about a skateboarding accident that led to him writing “Clearly, Severely.”
Harper’s band stepped out frequently during the night, especially on “Lay There and Hate Me,” complete with extended solos by drummer Jordan Richardson and bassist Jesse Ingalls.
On blistering set-closing “Better Way,” Harper put one foot on the barrier rail that separated the stage from the audience, getting an audience reaction worth of Bono. He returned for a triple encore with some tasty treats, as he and lead guitarist Jason Mozersky channeled their inner Jimmy Page on a spot-on cover of “No Quarter,” with Mozersky taking the first half of the extended solo and Harper the second, showing that electric lap steel has classic rock potential. They followed with “Ohio,” which Harper recently recorded on the DVD “A MusiCares Tribute to Neil Young.”
Harper will return to the Ogden for the second show of his two-night run tonight.