“Some new, some old, a little in between — just like me," Ben Harper said when describing what he expected from his performance in Knoxville on April 20.
His statement described the music, the crowd and the band. It did not, however, describe the experience one bit. Starting with their hit “Diamonds on the Inside,” Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals played a concert to remember in the Tennessee Theater Wednesday night.
Ben introduced the band as all the original members. They may be slightly older, but they still play as good as new. At first glace I assumed they were the hipster type, but through the night, it was obvious they enjoy playing as a traditional rock band and have much more fun doing it than any hipster band could dream of.
I was having the time of my life — the band’s instrumentation was remarkable; the rock band feel with the lights was perfect. And then they unleashed the bongos.
I do not know about you, but in my opinion, bongos can make any song come to life. It jolted my already present enthusiasm through the roof with its reggae feel.
Once the bongos were out, the band hung out, holding one big jam session with repetitive sounds between instruments. Most songs followed by the jams were reggae and rock with a few acoustics thrown in featuring a violin.
No matter what an artist performs, if the crowd is not completely engrossed, the concert is bound to be dull. Lucky for Harper, this crowd was captivated the entire night.
Everyone was on their feet, dancing in the aisles, clapping and having fun — making for a very laid-back atmosphere. He then played “Dance with Me” which correlated perfectly with the ambiance. I almost forgot the concert was inside — it felt much too free and relaxed to be in such a confined space.
Harper showed the crowd how deep he is through his in-between song talks as well as with his mesmerizing lyrics. He is such a gentleman with a soulful voice. He preached equality on touchy subjects that most artists do not bother to talk about and then played “Finding our Way” to tie in his thoughts.
He reminded the audience of the greatest feature about music and art — freedom of expression. I respect and appreciate him plenty more since he allowed his audience to see his true thoughts and concerns.
After a few too many seconds of cheering, the band came out for an amazing encore. Once again bringing out the incredible bongos, they wooed the crowd with “Burn One Down” followed by the cheerful “Steal My Kisses.” Once they were finished, no one wanted the group to get off the stage, and it was sad to see them go.
Overall, it was a wonderful night. If you ever have the opportunity to see Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals live, I suggest you make your way there because it will be one you do not want to miss.