Live review: Ben Harper @ the Ogden Theatre, Day 2By Elana Ashanti Jefferson | June 8th, 2011 | No Comments »
Heads up, skaters: If you find yourself in the streets after midnight and think you catch a glimpse of a 40-something rock ‘n’ roller working on a few tricks of his own, it might be a flashback or apparition, but more likely it’s Ben Harper out for some air after a show.
Harper wrapped up a two-night, sold-out stand at Denver’s Ogden Theatre on Tuesday before continuing on in this year’s international tour of mid-size venues and epic outdoor festivals. Road-warrior musicians like this often lament the lack of time to actually see all those cities. But Tuesday Harper employed his storytelling prowess — tailored after blues and folk greats — to describe for the audience his jovial interaction the night before with one Denver shredder.
“I was out skating around last night and met some good people in the street,” he recalled from the stage. One of those people was a girl wearing one of Ben Harper’s “Rock N Roll Is Free” buttons. The two chatted for a minute before she borrowed his deck and proceeded to take the musician to school. “She did kick-flips, double kick-flips… she just killed it!”
In a move that illustrated the bond between Harper, who just released his 10th studio album, “Give Till Its Gone,” and his fans, this guitar snob then dedicated “Diamonds on the Inside” to his new skateboarding pal. “You blew me away last night, gal,” he said over a young woman’s hollered greeting from the floor. “I have a coupla daughters and I want them to be just like you.”
From Harper’s subdued and humble hello and thank yous, palms together prayer-style, to his most raucous moments in the set when his band helped construct a sonic wall of psychedelic rock, this entertainer reveled in the generous give-and-take he’s developed with loyal longtime fans. These are music lovers who don’t seem to mind or care that while his playing has become downright academic, Harper’s voice now lacks the bombast of years past.
This show was as eclectic as his catalogue. Harper gave the crowd pensive soulfulness in “Power of the Gospel,” Mississippi mud washed down with roadhouse rock in “Why Must You Always Dress in Black,” and a few selections he rarely plays live, such as “Spilling Faith,” which Harper co-wrote with Ringo Starr. These days Ben Harper often finds himself in the company of such music giants. Given his two generous and engaging Denver shows, that seems only right.
Click here for a photo gallery and review of Day 1.
Elana Ashanti Jefferson is an editor at The Denver Post and a longtime music fan.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.