Tag Archives: Ben Harper


Spafford’s Hot Streak Continues at Music Hall of Williamsburg

April 14th, 2017

Spafford – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 13, 2017

The jam-band scene is a happy-eyed, self-sustaining beast: Young bands grow to become veteran and vanguard bands—just as they did a generation earlier in the post–Grateful Dead afterglow—and then do their part to support the next generation of improvisers and torchbearers. Fans do the same: Word of mouth does wonders for long-term support of a fledgling jam band like in no other pocket of the music scene, especially as buzz builds and what was seemingly moments ago a regional favorite is now a headliner with national buzz, collecting believers left and right.

And so, as of April 2017, goes Spafford, the Arizona-based four-piece on a true hot streak, coming off a summer tour opening for Umphrey’s McGee, and now, as evidenced by a slam-bang show last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, well worthy of the spot atop bills. Despite mounting their first national tour less than a year ago, Spafford are a band with “future vanguard” written all over them. They played until well after midnight: two sets of shape-shifting, rigorously funky groove music that hit all the hallmarks—segues, guests (what up, Todd Stoops!), well-chosen covers that added but didn’t dominate, plus lengthy, unhurried workouts on songs with names like “Slip and Squander,” “Electric Taco Stand” and “In the Eyes of Thieves,” that last one a hot groover that emerged from a spookily psychedelic place and built to peak after hammering peak with screaming guitar.

People have grabbed on to Spafford early because there’s a lot to grab. I liked the patient builds and forward-looking improvisations, which didn’t feel like extended vamps—didn’t revel in ambient noise—and seemed to have a destination in mind even as they slowly unfolded. “America,” a chugging, panoramic road trip, was a great example. I liked their Dead cover, “Feel Like a Stranger,” soaked in keys and perfect for who the band is. I liked the filthy disco of “Ain’t That Wrong,” with Stoops spider-handing the keys. I liked “Beautiful Day,” an anthemic stroll that hit somewhere among Phish, Ben Harper and Bill Withers. It segued into “Leave the Light On” to close the second set—lilting, a little tentative, and then building into one more jammy release. I like that these guys trust one another and can demonstrate, astonishingly well sometimes, a deeply connected understanding of where they want to take a song, instead of just surrounding the guitar player and letting him cut loose every four minutes.—Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson


Two Nights of Xavier Rudd & the United Nations This Weekend

April 30th, 2015

Like Ben Harper and Jack Johnson before him, the socially minded Xavier Rudd winsomely mines twin passions of surfing and roots music. Playing live, the Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist—who often does so solo and barefoot—has won over festival audiences across the world thanks to his upbeat, energetic performances. His eighth studio album, the culture-melding reggae-tinged Nanna (stream it below), out earlier this year, features an international, multigenerational backing band known as the United Nations. AllMusic gave the LP a glowing review: “On this project, Rudd reveals himself as a gifted bandleader and arranger and, most importantly, a servant of the music. Each player shines forth her or his strength in this ambitious mix. What Rudd sacrifices in individual identity here is more than compensated for in the strength of both songs and the United Nations’ performances.” Xavier Rudd & the United Nations (above, in the video for “Come People”) kick off their tour tonight at Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine, but you don’t have to travel that far to see them on Saturday at The Bowery Ballroom and Sunday at Music Hall of Williamsburg.


Joseph Arthur Celebrates Albums Release at The Bowery Ballroom

June 12th, 2013

For more than 15 years, singer-songwriter (and visual artist) Joseph Arthur has won over fans with his extensive catalog of critically acclaimed recorded material and a heavy touring schedule. Notably, one of the first people he won over was Peter Gabriel, who signed Arthur to his Real World label in the mid-’90s, giving him a wider public platform as he began opening for the likes of Ben Harper and Gomez. That exposure worked as fans took to Arthur’s one-man live performances filled with plenty of looping and distortion techniques. (Plus, fans could take home a soundboard recording of each show.) Arthur (above, doing “Almost Blue” in studio for KEXP FM) just released the “psychedelic soul” record The Ballad of Boogie Christ (stream it below), which features a diverse cast of guest performers, including Harper, Garth Hudson and Juliette Lewis. American Songwriter says it “weaves beautiful narratives in and out of folksy numbers and rock songs, adding a layered palette of horn solos and soulful back-up singer,” and Arthur celebrates the album’s release tomorrow night at The Bowery Ballroom.


An Electric Performance

October 3rd, 2011

Ben Harper – Terminal 5 – October 1, 2011

From the moment he came onstage, Ben Harper connected with the crowd, saluting with hands clasped as if in prayer and thrust upward toward the balconies. This gratitude was infectious and lasted the entire night, as he thanked those gathered time and again, and sang the praises of New York City in between songs, transforming a roomful of fans into lasting converts to the potential glory of Terminal 5. The set ran the gamut, drawing on material from across his catalog, while also offering a wealth of covers. Pretty much every moment was a highlight. Soul was in the house, with the opener, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Rock was in the house, as a fiery “Glory & Consequence” delved into a verse from Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” before coming back for its conclusion. Gospel was in the house, as a rapt crowd watched Harper step up to the front of the stage in front of the monitors to belt out an a cappella verse during a stirring rendition of “Where Could I Go.”

The crowd sang along to some of the softer songs, like “Suzie Blue” and “Another Lonely Day,” and watched with awe as drummer Jordan Richardson delivered a 10-minute drum solo. The band welcomed opener Grace Woodroofe to the stage for a cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless.” Her guitarist, along with Charlie Sexton, the guitarist from Bob Dylan’s band, remained onstage to add layers to the Led Zeppelin classic “No Quarter.” The crowd was still insatiable. “Every song I sing is ‘Sexual Healing,’’’ joked Harper after one shouted request. All the while he lavishly praised New York City and its inhabitants. “The world is nothing without a city like this,” he said early in the set. “You’re all world travelers—look at you! Every block is a page. Every borough is a chapter.”

Later Harper related a string of events he’d been a part of in New York City over the years, saying “I’ve had one indelible memory in this city pretty much every year of my life.” He listed off some of the artists he’d had the pleasure of playing with here over the years, starting back in 1994: Gil Scot-Heron, P.J. Harvey, the Fugees, Phillip Glass, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. There was the show at the Apollo with the Blind Boys of Alabama, playing to a rain-soaked crowd in Central Park in 2007, performing for Barack Obama in 2008 at the Hammerstein Ballroom. “Which brings me to tonight, Terminal 5,” he concluded. “Thank you, New York City. Thank you!” —JC McIlwaine

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | www.jcmcilwaine.com


Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Ben Harper on 10/1

September 27th, 2011


Ben Harper had a new album, Give Till It’s Gone, come out last May, and now he’s making his way to New York City to play Terminal 5 on Saturday. The show is sold out, but if you don’t already have tickets and would still like to go, you just might be in luck because The House List is giving away two of them. So try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Ben Harper, 10/1) and a brief message explaining your going-out strategy for Rocktober. Eddie Bruiser, who’s planning to go out for 31 consecutive nights, will notify the winner by Friday.

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