Posted by: deerharas | June 9, 2007

Blessed to Be a Witness … of Ben Harper that is

I can cross one more off my “must see perform live before I die” list.  Last night Jayme Lynn and I stood front row for Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, and I must say that it was one of the best concert experiences I have ever had.  Yes, Ben was phenomenal, but the weather was nice, and the crowd was benevolent, and I only saw two people sporting Ben Harper tees. 

Last year I took Jayme to see The Fray at Cain’s sometime in July.  The concert was sold out, and because I waited too long, I ended up paying way too much money for tickets on eBay.  Being July in Tulsa, it was sweltering. In an effort to get near the front, we showed up early and ended up waiting two hours outside in the Oklahoma heat.  Once we got inside, it wasn’t much better, as these teeny bopper girls pushed and shoved and crowded in as tight as possible.  The concert was fun, but short seeing as the band only has one twelve song album.  I swear when they did a cover of Eleanor Rigby, all but maybe ten people and myself probably thought that it was a new song The Fray was trying out before releasing it on their next album.  All this to set up a lovely comparison to last night’s fantastic event …

Similarity #1: The Venue.  Both concerts were held at the historic Cain’s Ballroom.  Other concerts I’ve seen there include Jason Mraz (I know, I know), Eisley, G. Love & Special Sauce, Guster, and Jeff Tweedy.  An ecclectic bunch for an ecclectic venue.  I heart Cain’s.

Similarity #2: Both sold out.  However, I learned my lesson with The Fray and bought Ben tickets the day they went on sale, not knowing who would want the other ticket, but reasoning that it would be worth it to bring along a friend for free if only to guarantee myself a spot.

Similarity #3: General admission = waiting outside a long time.  At both concerts we arrived about two hours before doors opened, a little less for The Fray, a little more for Ben Harper.

And the similarities end there.  Yesterday was warm, but somewhat cloudy with a nice breeze every now and then.  We waited in line in front of a nice couple in their thirties working on a crossword puzzle.  (October’s birthstone happens to be the opal, just in case you were wondering.)  Once they let us inside, Jayme and I claimed prime concert floor real estate on the front row, just to the left.  And let me just say, the front row is fabulous.  Not only do you have an incredible view, but you get to lean up against that cool metal fence.  I learned the value of this at Coldplay, but the knowledge was further reinforced at last night’s event.  Usually if your at a concert and your concert partner needs to leave to say get a drink, use the restroom, buy a t-shirt, you must fight tooth and nail to keep her space in her absence.  I’ve become quite the pro … the key is in adopting a wide stance.  However, yesterday when I came back from purchasing my afro tee, I noticed the girl beside us actually helping Jayme save my spot.  Those Ben Harper fans sure are super.

I wasn’t much looking forward to the opening act after checking him out on MySpace.  Tom Morello, aka The Nightwatchman, did a short set, and come to find out (from our new crossword friends), he used to be a guitarist for Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.  Anyway, I really can’t stand it when people talk/sing … when their singing just sounds like talking, except they hold out the words a little longer.  Plus, he was super political, referring to himself in one song as a “One Man Revolution.”  I did however enjoy his rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” complete with originally censored lyrics.  “In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, by the relief office I seen my people; as they stood there hungry, I stood there asking is this land made for you and me?” 

But on to Ben.  I just don’t think you can ever fully appreciate an artist until you’ve seen them perform live.  After last night, I must say that I certainly appreciate Ben Harper as both an artist and performer.  His songs are so well crafted musically and lyrically, not to mention that he writes/plays a vast variety of genres, making it near impossible to catergorize his music.  His voice is beautiful, his guitar playing incredible, and his lyrics spot on.  And the best part of it all is that he can downplay any of the three in order to emphasize whichever one best expresses the song. 

When an artist has a vast repertoire of songs to perform, it’s always a crapshoot as to whether or not you’ll hear “your” song.  For instance, when Stacey and I saw Indigo Girls a couple of years ago, they didn’t play “The Wood Song” or “Ghost.”  So last night I was a little anxious as to whether or not he would play some of my favorites.  Although he missed “Blessed to Be a Witness,” he did get “With My Two Hands,” “Walk Away,” and “Better Way.”  Unexpectedly, my favorite performance of the night was the first of his second encore.  In the middle of “Where Could I Go”  he came to the front of the stage singing out passionately sans mic.  It sounded fuller to me without the aid of the microphone, but then again, I was front row. 

They ended their over two hour performance with the iconic “Better Way” and then my cousin caught a flying drum stick.  Man, is she good at catching things … Tony Parker’s shoe for example.  She even snatched me one of the set lists from a roadie.  Even though I can now officially mark Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals off my must see concert list, I’m pretty sure I will jump at any opportunity to see them perform again. 

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