Live Video: Ben Harper

Live Video
03/30/2016
Scott Kulicke
photo by Matthew B. Thompson

Ben Harper has defined the sweet spot between reggae and American folk for over two decades now. It's hard for an artist to survive that long while maintaining relevance and staying true to the original sound that hooked listeners long ago while evolving and while shifting and growing - but after reuniting with his legendary backing band, The Innocent Criminals, for his recently released Call It What It Is, Ben Harper has proven that twenty two years haven't made him stale; they've refined him. Hearing him speak, he is shockingly - almost unnervingly - candid and sincere, and this stark frankness rings out in the first lines of the title track: "they shot him in the back/ it's a crime to be black/ so don't act surprised/ when it gets vandalized/call it what it is, call it what it is, call it what it is: murder." The hypnotic slide guitar takes us back to a bygone era of Mississippi Delta blues, evoking images of a racism that we're often too comfortable labeling as "in the past" - but as he lists out the names of Trayvon Martin and Ezell Ford, a cold, unsettling horror settles in, reminding us that there's nothing past about the violence. Join us for one of the most emotionally gripping, beautifully heartbreaking performances to ever fill the KEXP studios.

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