Ben Harper is one of those rare dudes that defies most rock and roll rules. He’s a Hendrix and Marley fanatic who plays amazing tributes to them live, yet his albums sound more akin to vintage Richie Havens minus all the Dylan and Beatles covers. He’s a conscious partier who is outspoken when it comes to issues like human rights, yet he’s not afraid to walk down the red carpet with his movie star wife Laura Dern. Harper is guilty of bringing Jack Johnson into the world, yet his music continues to be lauded in the most hip of circles.
Combining a laid-back, organic approach to record-making with an explosive live show has made Harper one of the most consistently entertaining rockers out there. When he and his Innocent Criminals show up at the Murat Sept. 7, expect an engaging, rocking set of tunes perfectly suited for the hazy days of late summer.
Earlier, in June, Harper pulled off one of the better sets at Bonnaroo, burning through sweaty reggae jams, crowd-pleasing urban soul, blues, gospel and a jaw-dropping 20-minute performance of “Dazed & Confused” with John Paul Jones on bass.
Ben Harper’s new album, Lifeline, recorded and mixed in seven days late last year, is a warm and intimate record with a menacing fire smoldering beneath. Tunes like the torridly soulful “Needed You Tonight” and the feel-good groove “Say You Will” speak of L-O-V-E. Songs like “In the Colors” and “Fool for a Lonesome Train” offer messages of hope and beauty in uncertain times.
Billed as an intimate acoustic set at the Murat, it doesn’t mean the show is going to be a sit-down gig, as Harper — always the consummate entertainer — will undoubtedly put on a performance that will razzle-dazzle even as it hits the heart.