Out & About

Ben Harper may be a young man, but he surely seems to be an old soul. Sure, there were light moments on his '94 debut, Welcome to the Cruel World (chiefly the two-stepping, trash-talking "Mama's Got a Girlfriend Now"), but it was songs such as "Like a King"--which brought the civil-rights struggle from Martin Luther King to Rodney King home to roost--that stood out.

Harper's commitment and craftsmanship have only grown since, and these days, sitting on a platform, playing slide on his hollow-body (and hollow-neck) Weissenborn guitar, the young man sounds like a direct link between the sons of sharecroppers who pioneered the music we know as blues and the raucous rock and rollers who followed in their footsteps. He can jam like Jimi, he's traded licks with Brownie McGhee and Taj Mahal, and at any given show, in addition to his often transcendent originals, Harper just may throw in a heartfelt cover by Bob Marley, the Jam, Marvin Gaye, or Kurt Cobain. It may sound corny or clichéd, but Ben Harper is special and we're lucky to have him around. Prodigiously rhyming hip-hop duo Blackalicious open the show.

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Sean O'neill