Ben Harper’s first American city tour stop was at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA. In a rare solo performance, his set was entirely acoustic – a career first for Harper. With all of his instruments laid out in a circle, he kicked things off with,“Trouble Man” and “Indifference” both well known hits by the great Marvin Gaye and Pearl Jam respectively. Framed by only his soulful voice and a marimba, the true beauty of Harper’s music was quickly revealed and by the time he picked up his guitar to strum the familiar chords to “Burn One Down.” the crowd was going positively wild.
The rest of his intimate set was filled with recognizable classics from his early days like “Not Fire Not Ice” and “Diamonds on the Inside” as well as songs from his more recent work with Relentless7. A highlight of the evening came when Harper introduced “Please Break the Silence” – a song that had never been played live – by warning that if he messed up, he was just going to start all over again, was played live. It was, of course an empty threat, but one that loyal fans would have gladly indulged if for no reason other than the privilege of being able to see an artist they love actively creating right before their eyes.
Ben Harper’s songs have what much of today’s music lack – depth. His performances come straight from the heart and he pours all of his emotions into his music. Sometimes that can get lost in all of the noise of a seven piece band, but seeing Harper in this sparse context stripped acoustic set was a pure and powerful reminder of why Harper’s music is celebrated worldwide. It was an evening that fans will talk about for years to come, and is yet another example of legendary performances that can take place in one place and one place only – Wolf Trap.