Review: Ben Harper Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Friday 20 June 1997
Harper sweetens the pill of his undoubtedly stern personal, political and religious homilies with beautifully weighted musical settings and a canny awareness that we haven't turned up a for an evening of collective hand-wringing.
He's careful not to overegg his pious pudding - this prophet rocks. Harper's spiritual militancy also finds a natural home in his more forthright protest songs, in particular "Fight for your Mind" and "People Lead". It doesn't take an impressively faithful "Voodoo Child" to realise that the bluesy rock of the Jimi Hendrix Experience inspires the powerful articulation of his band, the innocent Criminals.
Here too, though, as in the storming "Like a King" (where Bob Marley's eloquent indignation surfaces in Harper's response to the beating of Rodney King and the LA riots), Harper gets surprising mileage from some pretty obtuse refrains. With the requisite black consciousness inflections (Black Panther clenched fists, unflinching grimace), a funky Rastafarian T-shirt and lyrics as, well, let's say "roomy" as: "Some people believe, I some people know, I Some people deceive, I Some people show", somehow achieve a universal significance.
That may be the key to his success: his masterful absorption of the political and blues histories of black music. On this evidence at least, he seems to be the true heir to the soulful rock and R&B of Jimi Hendrix and Prince.
It's difficult to nominate any serious competition, save the mere pretender Lenny Kravitz. Harper wears his heritage lightly. Marvin Gaye, Cat Stevens, Aaron Neville, Sly and Stone hang in Harper's crisp voice all evening, defying the ship's funnel acoustics of the Empire.
Come evening's end, the angelic Harper and his compelling millennial blues have the audience singing a funky a cappella gospel to itself, resolving to "rise and shake off the shackles of history". In the Church of the House of Harper, anything seems possible.
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Israel-Gaza conflict: The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The missiles were tragically real
Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
Syria conflict: Syrian and Turkish Kurds unite to battle Isis threat - ‘We shoot them like sheep, but next day double the number return’
Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 5 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45
£52000 - £58000 per annum + benefits, company car: Ashdown Group: Advertising ...
Internship / Travel & Expenses Paid: Guru Careers: An ambitious and adaptable ...
£20 - 24k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a passionate and motivated Email Campa...
Up to £171 PAYE per day (equal to 40 – 45K ) : Sauce Recruitment: This is a te...