Wow! I don’t think anyone has had a musical experience until they see someone like Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals. It must be something about playing in Adelaide but every show delivers something quite magical. Casting my mind back it is hard to believe that the last visit to Adelaide was all the way back in 2006.
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals walked to the stage to a hero’s like welcome and to some of the loudest applause I’ve heard in sometime. It was almost like our favourite son had returned for a massive homecoming of sorts. It was an awesome, enthusiastic and attentive crowd that soaked up Harper’s blend of rock, blues, folk and reggae for the next two hours or so. The set was a mix of the old and new featuring some new songs off the 2016 album Call It What It Is.
Opening with Forgiven it didn’t take long for the band to hit full flight. Numerous times during the night Harper thanked the crowd for being here and that it was a privilege to be here playing for them. Call It What It Is kept that momentum going but it was the classics that got the biggest cheers none more so than Don’t Take That Attitude To The Grave from 1994s Welcome To The Cruel World. Harper promised that there would be at least one ‘rocker’ before the night is out and to take a line out of his autobiography he is known as a ‘one rocker’.
The hits kept coming with Excuse Me Mister and Diamonds On The Inside fuelling the energy of the crowd. At this point Harper removes his hat, even that got a cheer, Harper quips that he has always worn a hat and this one wasn’t about hiding his age but suggesting that “bald is the new hair”. Yep, I’ll pay that one! The band is introduced and what an ensemble. Crowd favourite was percussionist Leon Mobley who brought plenty of smiles, tempo, energy and enthusiasm to the show. Ben Harper was truly brilliant on slide guitar with plenty of shining moments in the show. It was hard not to feel the emotion of the song Morning Yearning from 2006s Both Sides Of The Gun.
One of many highlights but the one that topped the lot was the duel between bassist Juan Nelson and Harper again on slide guitar on Fight For Your Mind. Talk about epic! In a closely fought out duel for ten minutes or thereabouts Nelson tried claiming that one. To close out the main set there were more hits with Burn One Down and Faded featuring a massive slide guitar solo. Indulgent? Yes! Nonetheless the crowd couldn’t get enough with plenty encouragement to keep it going.
The first encore featured Steal My Kisses, Where Could I Go (stellar version without the microphone) and With My Own Two Hands. Again Harper praised the crowd for “turning this box in to a musicians paradise” referring to venue and how the crowd brought the show to life. Adelaide cops a fair bit of stick about its audiences but they were really something else tonight making this show memorable for all the right reasons.
By Rob Lyon