By Megan Moss
Artist: Ben Harper
Date / Venue: Friday December 2nd, 2016 - Vector Arena, Auckland
So Ben Harper, Vector Arena, last night... what a great night it was! Harper alongside bassist Juan Nelson, percussionist Leon Mobley, guitarist Jason Mozersky, drummer Oliver Charles, and keyboardist Jason Yates took the stage a little somewhere around 9pm with little fuss but to much applause.
Ben started the night with hits such as Opression, Diamonds On The Inside and Dont Take That Attitude To Your Grave. Scanning around the arena the vibe was electric and the audience were up in their seats immediately with lots of cheers to welcome Mr Harper back to our fair shores. Sadly it seemed a bit empty on the floor, however it did not detract from the night one itty bit! After a brief bit of conversation, a run down about his bald head (& making sure all in attendance were aware he wore a hat NOT because he was trying to hide a bald head but because he just always did) Ben leaned out after the second song and carefully tossed his slide to an audience member in the front row.
There were cheers, good humour and a responsive happy audience throughout the show; We were treated to a good mix up of older and newer songs, some great jams (I'm a fan of a good instrumental interlude by such talented creatures myself, however it did seem during a couple of these moments the audiences' attention did ebb after 10 minutes or so).
There were a couple of outstanding moments for me after a long dual-like instrumental period after Fight For Your Mind with Ben on lap steel and his incredibly talented bassist Jaun Nelson (so much groove its downright infectious), led into a lap-steel / bass music dual between themselves. The music built up up up and then Juan ripped into a absolutely killer rocked out version of Buddy Miles Them Changes... the crowd roared and clapped in delight.
After some banter about his 'Spiritually Paranoia', Ben called for some gospel, the audience called out YEA and Ben proceeded to sing an old hymn 'Where Could I Go' first with band then the lights went down bar a spotlight. The band barely made a sound as Ben stepped down off the stage and sang the rest of the song accapella... calling out to the audience with much audience calling back and "praise the lord" and such calls & holla's (I find it beautiful and moment freezing when someone can sing so beautifully and everyone in the arena can hear - unplugged!) and then all of a sudden Ben leaped back on the stage, up on the drum riser and the band started to play in perfect time, the lights started & the crowd went wild-again.
There was much onstage banter about various subjects, many thanks to Ben and great humour. Onstage Ben and his band of Innocent Criminals are phenomenal to see, I mean so tight. Reading Ben's subtle nods and hand gestures with ease, they are so in tune with each other yet outwardly it comes off like its a brand new jam. They are all blissed up and having the best time while they go about it!
I have to mention Leon Mobly who is an incredible percussionist. With a fabulous onstage rapport between Leon & Ben (as with the whole band actually), Leon is in full swing and his smiles & laughter are completely infectious. He is also full on talented and exudes rhythm and cool.
There was an encore (thank goodness because the crowd was going ballistic & stomping the ground so hard the seats were rocking) and the crowd settled in for just a couple more favourites. With a call out to all of his band, much applause and a sweeping bow, the band left the stage and the magical night was finished. So; as always, I say thank-you to the band, what a great night, NZ hopes to see you again soon and enjoy the rest of the tour! If you haven't got tickets yet for the rest of the tour, do so its a great night out.