Grammy-Award winning, multi-platinum-selling artists Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite brought the blues to Thebarton Theatre. No fancy light show, projections or special affects just the tunes. Harper and Musselwhite have forged quite the partnership which has spawned two albums with the recent No Mercy In This Land featuring prominently. Adelaide was lucky to be included on this run of dates which includes a headlining spot at Splendour In The Grass. No doubt a few more through the door would have been better but didn’t detract from the attentive and parochial Thebarton Theatre crowd.
Touring as a five piece they wasted no time getting down to business opening with When I Go. Hot damn! The vibe of this show early you could just feel that it was really going to be something quite amazing. Harper’s first comment was “half the battle is getting your guitar strap straight” before ripping in to Bad Habit. There were plenty of cheers when Musselwhite said that the “blues are in the house tonight” serving as the intro to The Blues Overtook Me.
Harper then said “there’s your fried chicken, here’s your greens, cornbread. What? Cherry Pie, I knew you’d say that” before getting in to Love And Trust. Harper remarked that their friendship goes back twenty five years and that they felt the love in the room but to move on without an inferiority complex because Charlie gets all the love the crowd was asked to show the rest of the band some love as well. I Ride At Dawn, Get Up was awesome as well as the dedication to Donald Trump I Don’t Believe A Word You Say. The lyric “I see your mouth moving, but there’s a circus coming out” is unbeatable drawing some ironic cheers. I’m In I’m Out And I’m Gone was great and Harper acknowledged that the next one was designed for people to shake it but did say there was a contingent who wanted to sit and a contingent who wanted to dance but encouraged everyone to get up for Movin’ On.
Harper took to the piano for the moving Nothing At All and the love songs continued with Trust You To Dig My Grave. As Harper said this is a love song but not your typical love song where you hold your partner’s hand, cuddle them through the night and maybe we might, maybe we won’t but if your trusting them to dig your grave trust them with everything else. The set was nearing the end with Found The One, I’m Goin’ Home and Blood Side Out sailing past. I reckon they could have played another two hours and the crowd would have been glued to their seats. For me When Love Is Not Enough was an amazing moment with Harper stepping away from the microphone and singing with pure emotion, he could feel it, the band could feel it and the crowd could feel it. To top things off it was the Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy cover (also covered by Led Zeppelin) When The Levee Breaks to bring this one home.
The encore was un-freaking- believable with No Mercy In This Land and it wouldn’t be complete unless someone was yelling out for a Ben Harper tune. Burn One Down was yelled out most of the night with Harper acknowledging that one’s for the smokers but this one’s for the drinkers playing The Bottle Wins Again. It was a real surprise to hear a Beatles cover in Yer Blues finishing with All That Matters Now. My Saturday night was awesome, how about yours? If you have a chance to catch Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite do so or you’ll regret it.
Live Review By Rob Lyon