Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Logan Campbell Centre, February 27, 2020: Concert Review

Ben Harper is a regular on the NZ concert scene, with and without The Innocent Criminals. Marty Duda says it was a typical show on Thursday night – but what does that mean? Read his review and browse a gallery of photos of Ben Harper and opener Matt Corby by Rachel Webb.

The opportunity to see Ben Harper and his band at the Logan Campbell Centre on a hot summer night didn’t exactly fill me with joy. Sure enough, the venue was sweltering hot. I managed to talk my way up into the seated section, convincing a security person that I was way too old to be standing for three hours.  Sure enough, being seated did make it bearable.

Harper is regular visitor to Auckland, with or without his Innocent Criminals (Leon Mobley, Juan Nelson, Oliver Charles) and tonight he and his band were ready to generate a little heat of their own.

Harper started out seated, playing his Weissenborn slide guitar on Gold To Me, from his 1995 album, Fight For Your Mind. Despite the sweat and the stickiness, the crowd was right behind Harper, cheering and clapping.

Steal My Kisses kept the momentum up and from there the quartet kept the bluesy sounds coming. A version of Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced, followed by Stevie Wonder’s Superstition was especially welcome.  The sound reminded me of Cream and the late Ginger Baker. I was hoping they might dip into a little I Feel Free, but it was not to be.

From there, Harper went solo on Walk Away, from his debut album, 1994’s Welcome To The Cruel World. Then he continued to cherrypick through his impressive catalogue with raging versions of tunes such as Fight For Your Mind, Ground On Down and a lovely version of Diamonds  On The Inside. Thrown in for good measure was a rockin’ version of Buddy MilesThem Changes.

Better Way closed out the set, leaving everyone sweating. But Harper and his band had more to say and closed the evening out with Welcome To The Cruel World and Glory & Consequence (with a little of Pearl Jam’s Jeremy making a brief appearance.

Having seen Ben Harper several times, I can say that this was a somewhat typical show. That doesn’t mean it was bland as Harper puts everything into his performances as does the band. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and no doubt they were all heading for home at the end to have a cool shower.

Marty Duda

Click any image to see a gallery of Ben Harper photos, by Rachel Webb

Click any image to see a gallery of Matt Corby photos, by Rachel Webb

Ben Harper setlist:

  1. Gold To Me
  2. Steal My Kisses
  3. The Woman In You
  4. Burn One Down
  5. Are You Experienced?
  6. Superstition
  7. Walk Away
  8. Roses From My Friends
  9. When Its Good
  10. Forever
  11. Fight For Your Mind
  12. Them Changes
  13. Ground On Down
  14. Diamonds On The Inside
  15. Better Way
  16. Welcome To The Cruel World
  17. Glory & Consequence/Jeremy