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Ben HarperRockhal, Esch sur Alzette, Luxembourg
12th June 2019
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist BEN HARPER has returned with a new album in 2018. This Wednesday he presented the new album, ‘No Mercy In This Land’, with THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS at the Rockhal. After the successful concert in 2016, BEN HARPER & THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS are finally on tour again and made the Escher audience very happy on Wednesday evening. With some new songs but of course also the old hits in their luggage, the weekend mood was already underway!

Benjamin Chase Harper is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Harper plays an eclectic mix of Blues, Folk, Soul, Reggae, and Rock music and is known for his guitar-playing skills, vocals, live performances, and activism. He has released twelve regular studio albums, mostly through Virgin Records and has toured internationally. Harper is a three-time Grammy Award winner and seven-time nominee, with awards for “Best Pop Instrumental Performance” and “Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album” in 2004 and “Best Blues Album” in 2013. At the 40th Blues Music Awards ceremony, Harper’s joint composition with Charlie Musselwhite, ‘No Mercy In This Land’, was named as “Song of the Year”.

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Music & Performance
At 21:15 it was time, the lights went out, the audience began to cheer. It was finally time... and BEN HARPER & THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS were already on stage. Most people know BEN HARPER only from his rather slow songs like ‘Forever’, ‘Walk Away’ or ‘Amen Omen’. But some of the songs played this evening were pretty rocky. With their unmistakable sound and a varied mixture of Folk, Blues, Reggae, Funk and down-to-earth Rock, they satisfied every single spectator in this unusually mixed audience of the Rockhal. But no matter how many generations were at the concert that night, they obviously had fun. In between there were always small instrumental sessions like in ‘Burn One Down’, which always brought a huge wave of applause. Especially the small interludes of the percussionist Leon Mobley were impressive.

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The musical highlight followed with ‘Fight For Your Mind’, in which bassist Juan Nelson played at his best and fascinated the audience. It was not just a fantastic solo; his bass had a kind of dialogue with Harper’s Lap Steel Guitar. With ‘Them Changes’, which followed afterwards, he proved that he also has a lot to offer vocally. But Harper has returned to his roots in the middle of his set. Already in his debut album ‘Welcome to the Cruel World’ from 1994 the son of an Afro-American and a Jewish woman with Russian roots sang his melancholic bitterness about the world from his soul. His pronounced world-weariness and his sometimes naïve but never resigned desire for more humanity has since been reflected in his work as a musician and political activist.

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But BEN HARPER was rarely as clear as in the songs of the 2016 released record ‘Call It What It Is’. In the same named song, the now 49-year-old ruthlessly reckons with the increasing police violence against black people in the USA in recent years. At the latest here everyone should have noticed that BEN HARPER is more than just an outstanding and entertaining musician. The highlight of the evening was definitely reached when the band started the encore song ‘Better Way’, followed by a thrilling performance of ‘Diamonds On The Inside’, the classic ‘Welcome To The Cruel World’ and ‘Jah Work’.

Setlist
01. The Will To Live
02. Burn One Down
03. Whipping Boy
04. Fight For Your Mind
05. Them Changes
06. Keep It Together (So I Can Fall Apart)
07. Alone
08. Please Bleed
09. Untitled 12-String Instrumental
10. Trust You To Dig My Grave
11. Walk Away
12. Forever
13. Call It What It Is
14. Who Is He (And What Is He To You?)
15. Machine Gun
16. Superstition
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17. Better Way
18. Diamonds On The Inside
19. Welcome To The Cruel World
20. Steal My Kisses
21. Jah Work

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 8
Sound: 8
Light: 7
Total 7.8 / 10

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All Pictures by Elena Arens

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