By Carlos Oen
August 23, 2018
The Orpheum looked majestic as fans waited for Ben Harper’s Vancouver stop during the promotional tour of No Mercy In This Land. His newest album is a 13-song collaboration with blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite.
Hey King! was in charge of the opening act. The Los Angeles four-member band used simplicity in their performance. A single tom and cymbal formed the percussion set, which played with basic dynamics. An e-guitar, trumpet and bass completed the instruments, used to support the voices of Natalie London and Taylor Plecity.
Harper and Musselwhite set the night in a bluestone. People were there to see Harper, but the author of “Burn One Down” made sure he and Memphis Charlie, as Musselwhite is also known, were on equal grounds. As Harper played “Bad Habits” the space between the columns of the stage was illuminated in light blue. On the third song, it was Musselwhite turn to sing, while his stage partner humbly sat on a chair, played the guitar horizontally and hid under a brown hat. Harper´s guitar was loud in “Love And Trust,” which had a nice buildup. The crow happily cheered.
As expected, there was activism on the stage. “We would like to dedicate this song to the soon-to-be ex-president of America,” said Harper before playing “I Don´t Believe a Word You Say.” People stood up and cheered out loud.
For most of the concert, Harper sang with a blues voice. Only in a couple of songs, his refreshing and unique vocal signature came out. Harper shared that being of both black and white ethnicities, he got to experience two very different ways of church worship. He then went solo just with a tambourine, building a rhythm that was later taken to the guitar. He asked people to stand from their seats and the fans followed into dancing and clapping. They played “Movin´ On” to the delight of one of the liveliest crowds the city has seen in a while.
A happy and packed theatre enjoyed a concert by two people that appreciate each other.
“My good friend Ben Harper,” said Musslewhite.
“One of the greatest musicians that have ever lived, the great Charlie Musselwhite,” said Harper.