Ben Harper - Walt Disney Concert Hall - November 18, 2013
"I've been making music for 20 years," singer/songwriter Ben Harper told the somewhat raucous crowd at the Disney. "What that means is that all of the shitheads are gone and we're left with you. It's 2,500 of your closest friends."
Harper was right. Playing a mostly solo acoustic set that spanned nearly three-hours, he wrapped up a brief two week run that began in his nearby in his hometown of Claremont. Playing the Disney appeared to have special meaning to Harper, who took multiple pauses over the course of the night to take in the modern marvel of the Los Angeles scene. Dressed to the nines, which in this case meant a white button shirt tucked into black pants, Harper rose to excellence that comes with playing in a venue as distinguished as the Disney.
For years, Harper toiled as he opened for bands like Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band and Taj Mahal. Yet his strong solo material allowed him to piggyback on those bands and gain a core audience of his own.
Instead of being uptight, Harper was the opposite. He constantly cracked jokes, like how after 20 years he finally earned his "black card," and quipped about the semi-late arriving crowd.
"I tried to make it somewhere in L.A. by 7:30 on a Monday once," the singer said. "And it was ugly."
Throughout the night, he mixed in stories behind the meaning of some his seminal songs. He told the crowd that "Welcome to the Cruel World" was written on a porch in Echo Park, and even disclosed that in order to make a gig, and thus impress, at the Mint, he got into a minor hit and run accident. Though the statute of limitations is long expired on that accident, what we did get was a story how when he arrived at the venue, he saw Mazzy Star on-stage and played a delicate version of the singer's "Fade Into You." He also talked about swapping instruments with the recently deceased Lou Reed, a moment that was clearly bittersweet for the singer.
Two special guests joined Harper: iconic bluesman Charlie Musselwhite and his mother, Ellen. The 44-year-old has spent a good chunk of the past year collaborating with the blues icon, and after a few songs, he told the crowd they have a second album in the works that should be coming soon.