My Morning Jacket
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Arcade Fire
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Sun Oct 8th, 2023

Time: 7:00pm-

Location: Center for the Performing Arts Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY (map)

Ben Harper
Ben was raised in a hub of activists, poets, artists and of course great musicians.
They included frequent patrons such as Chris Darrow, Leonard Cohen, Jackson
Browne and Taj Mahal – the latter of whom gave Ben his first major tour and
asked him to record Follow the Drinking Gourd with him (1990), all of which
culminated in playing with Taj on Austin City Limits (which would become the
first of five times Ben would be on the show).
Born October 28, 1969 as the sixties came to a howling end, and having been
raised in such a potent community, Ben’s music and career embodies that
musical brilliance, open mindedness, lyrical honesty and abiding social activism
of that pivotal time. With over 15 million records sold worldwide, the career of
this multi-GRAMMY® award-winning musician, producer, activist and now,
record label founder, spans decades, during which he has been established as a
singularly powerful songwriter and performer with range across multiple genres
with a rare ability to blend the personal and political.
After his successful tour and record release with Taj Mahal, Ben returned to
California and in 1992 teamed up with childhood friend Tom Freund to record
Pleasure and Pain. In 1993 Virgin Records offered Harper a worldwide
recording contract and he released his debut, Welcome to the Cruel World in
1994. The album was created with musicians who would eventually become
known as the Innocent Criminals (percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan
Nelson and drummer Oliver Charles). What makes the band so unique is that
they come from different places musically and complement each other because
of the different styles that they play. This led to a string of successful and
critically acclaimed albums and the accolades poured in. Rolling Stone hailed
his “jewels of unique and exquisitely tender rock & roll,” while Entertainment
Weekly praised his “casual profundity,” and Billboard said his music “reminds
us of the power and beauty of simplicity.”
Many albums with various iterations of the Innocent Criminals followed
including: Fight for Your Mind (1995); The Will to Live (1997); Burn to Shine
(1999); Live from Mars (2001); Diamonds on the Inside (2003); Both Sides of
the Gun (2006); Lifeline (2007) – for which he was nominated for Best Pop
Instrumental GRAMMY® and Call It What It Is (2016).
Harper’s need to continually explore every aspect of creating music has led him
to some brilliant and highly acclaimed collaborations, both as a performer and
as a producer. In 2004 Ben and the Innocent Criminals backed The Blind Boys
of Alabama resulting in the collaborative album There Will Be a Light. They
were awarded the GRAMMY® for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album and
Ben won the Best Pop Instrumental Performance GRAMMY®. In 2007 Ben
assembled a new band which he called Relentless7 and went on to release White
Lies for Dark Times (2009) and Give till it’s Gone (2011). 2010 saw Harper
team up with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur and they released a self-titled
album as Fistful of Mercy. In 2013 Ben teamed up with Charlie Musselwhite
and the duo created two records, the first, Get Up! (2013) which won the Best
Blues Album GRAMMY® award, followed by GRAMMY® nominated No
Mercy in This Land (2018) which won the Blues Foundation Best Blues Song of
the Year.
His credits as a producer illustrate Harper’s musical curiosity and include an
impressive diversity: Tom Freud, Collapsible Plans (2008); Grace Woodroofe,
Always Want (2010); Rickie Lee Jones, The Devil You Know (2012); Natalie
Maines, Mother (2012); Mavis Staples, We Get By (2019) that Harper also
wrote and sang on, garnering them the prestigious Folk Alliance Album of the
Year Award; Birdthrower, Birdthrower (2019); Christopher Paul Stelling, Best
of Luck (2020) and Hey, King!, Hey, King! (2020).
For many of these artists Harper not only produced the music but also helped to
find a label to release it, using his vast network, insight and knowledge of the
music industry to find these gems the right home.
2020 also saw Harper break more new ground with the October release of his
first ever instrumental record – Winter Is for Lovers – which unfolds entirely
without words. It is a profoundly emotional story told exclusively through the
nuance of sound. The narration is provided by a single lap steel guitar and the
music references blues and folk as well as flamenco, Indian and classical, but it
transcends any specific style. In that, the album philosophically evokes the
American Primitive movement pioneered by John Fahey and Leo Kottke,
utilizing masterful playing to create an impressionistic and affecting work.
Harper’s social activism has continued throughout his career and has seen him
support a broad array of organizations and events including LIFT, Living Lands
and Waters,, Newlight, Pat Tillman Foundation, Plastic Pollution
Coalition, Surfrider Foundation and Tony Hawk Foundation.

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10:00am - 3:00pm


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