harper2.jpg

All photos by Justin Renney. Click here for a slideshow.

What: Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals with Piers Faccini

Where: Paramount Theater

When: Wednesday,

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Last Night: Seattle *Hearts* Ben Harper

harper2.jpg

All photos by Justin Renney. Click here for a slideshow.

What: Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals with Piers Faccini

Where: Paramount Theater

When: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007. The band plays again tonight, November 15. It’s not too late to get there.

Better than: Whatever else you were planning for this evening

Seattle loves you, Ben Harper. And you know what, he loves them right back. It’s rare to find a performer that is so generous with his audience; and a crowd so ready to reward him for it. Harper and the Innocent Criminals are on tour--doing the grown-up seated venues this time--after he and his band disappeared into a Paris studio for seven days and emerged with Lifeline. The album was front and center last night of course, including my favorite, the clap-along crowd pleaser “Say You Will.” But a live run through of new tracks does not a great show make.

Rewarding fans new and old, Harper moved seamlessly between the sentimental “By My Side” from the 1995 Fight for your Mind to the hand-clapping, hip-shaking “Dance With Me” off the new album. While his long sets can get a little hard on the legs, they're ideal for a seated venue, where couples can relax into each other during the ballads before jumping to their feet and rocking out.

At one point, Harper sat down at the piano, then turned to the audience, feet up on the speakers and looked at the crowd. People started clapping. He bowed his head and they leapt to their feet in a wild ovation as he held up his fists. The whole episode might have made him look like a crazy, narcissistic cult leader, but as the applause died down he told the frenzied crowd: “Thank you for giving the music we make such meaning.” And I hesitate to admit it, but it felt like he meant it. The love affair continues tonight.

A quick note on the opener Piers Faccini: keep an eye out. He doesn’t seem to have quite found his stride, with some of his set being so mellow as to flirt with uninteresting. But at other moments, he hit the perfect rock/country/folk chord, complete with harmonica, sort of Bon Jovi meets the opening credits theme for Firefly (Joss Whedon’s post-Buffy space cowboy series.) He’ll find his place in the rock spectrum and with a silky baritone that will make you swoon, it’s worth keeping tabs on his tour schedule.

Random Detail: Beers at the Paramount are $4, about what you can expect to pay at the surrounding bars. But the cookies are really expensive. Stick a snack in your pocket and you’ll be fine to wait until you’re inside to wet your whistle.

Personal Bias: I first saw Ben Harper shortly after moving to Seattle my freshman year of college. I was a starry-eyed girl of 18, fresh out of Spokane and filled with giddy excitement. He was playing in the abysmal Mercer Arena, possibly the worst place ever for live music and I still loved it. Gosh he makes me feel good, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s so easy on the eyes.

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Piers Faccini

 
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