Pop: Ben Harper; Jazz Cafe, London
Wednesday 13 March 1996
Harper may not have yet cracked the mainstream market, but it's reasonable to assume that that is only a matter of time. Last year's album, Fight For Your Mind, is an accomplished piece of work, and Harper's live performance, a mix of streetwise savvy and passion, has sufficient verve to ensure a glittering longevity.
Even so, it's against some odds. Slide guitarists, Ry Cooder notwithstanding, don't exactly spring to mind when one's thinking about axe heroes. Harper, who certainly counts Cooder's sly, twanging soundscapes among his influences, alongside Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Richie Havens, was aided by the enforced intimacy that small venues such as this offer. Seated on a low stage (indeed, to the palpable delight of those not immunised against the singer's sultry good looks, virtually in the audience), Harper coaxed his vintage Weissenhorn guitar - a hollow-necked acoustic instrument fitted with an electric pick-up - into conjuring up sounds that stretched the imagination. It was, simultaneously, a percussive tool, a fuzzed-up funk engine, something capable of blending the most subtle nuances with an urgent ringing.
Harper has much to be urgent about. Songs such as "Like a King", written in the wake of the LA riots, and "Excuse Me Mr" deal with fundamental civil rights. Elsewhere, his language is peppered with images about personal freedom and environmental concerns. There are a lot of clenched fist salutes, not just from Harper, but also his three-piece band: the sublime bassist Juan Nelson, percussionist Leon Mobley, and drummer Oliver Charles. Harper may be adapting Marley's role as the righteous militant for the Nineties, but he is doing so with considerable style and panache. Nevertheless, the fluid quality of Harper's performance militated against any sense of over-staging. His opener, "Oppression", segued into Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up", then a mighty Latin break, all of which made it clear that Harper is a musician who goes where his grooves take him, and he has the power and the control to tease the ensuing drama to the full.
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mystery of the Siberian holes at the end of the world 'solved': Scientists offer explanation
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 5 Sean Hannity reacts to Russell Brand's Israel-Gaza criticism: 'You're a dumb actor known for your failed marriage to Katy Perry'
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in August 2014
The Walking Dead season 5 will see deaths of 'favourite characters', suggests Andrew Lincoln
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Coolio has sold his soul to Pornhub
Secret Cinema Back to the Future, review: Interactive cinema experience finally arrives
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >