Ben Harper at the Majestic Theater? It’s an incredible venue for the Nutcracker, but what would it be like for a crowd accustomed to rocking out at general admission shows and festivals? As it turned out, the inability to move freely was indeed a pain in the ass during rockin’ songs like “Put It on Me,” but Ben and his band had their fair share of poignant moments harkening back to the days when he played soulful songs alone with his acoustic guitar. He opened by himself, sitting in a pinstriped suit playing his slide guitar in the spotlight. He started slow and built up until the band members appeared in suits that brought to mind a Gospel revue. As they clapped and harmonized, drawing on old southern spirituals and bringing the energy up, the crowd came alive. There were couples and college coeds and lots of screaming girls, but they weren’t the only ones wanting a piece of Ben--one man in front of me yelled out, “I love you! I want to marry you!”
For the slow moments, the soft-lit chandeliers hanging from the ceiling set a pitch-perfect tone, and the lighting folks did a good job of accompanying the rock and funk-heavy tunes, as well. Ben branched out a bit when he played the Bill Withers classic “Use Me,” belting out the chorus James Brown-style while the electric guitarist did a hell of a solo and the guy on the bongos went nuts. The last couple of songs got a little too jammy for my taste, but maybe they figured they’d give their festival-going peeps a fix. All in all, the roots-rock-funk-reggae combo at an unlikely venue turned out pretty well. -– Megan Feldman
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