LastNight: Ben Harper at the Paramount Theater in Oakland

Categories: Last Night

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Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals with Piers Francini
Better than:
MC Hammer Church
Download: this fat pic of the scene (caution, it's a meg).

This Saturday’s first-of-the-season rain wasn’t enough to keep a capacity crowd from gathering at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre to see Ben Harper and his Innocent Criminals put on an intimate and memorable show.

Opener Piers Faccini set the tone, then the crowd came alive for Ben, standing up before their assigned seats for the entire show. While the evening’s set wandered in tempo and featured songs from the breadth of Harper’s discography, the band managed to keep everything stylistically constant.

The crowd felt equally at home in the cozy theater, frequently interacting with Harper, who clearly enjoyed both the attention and the intimacy it created. In response to one of the many “We love you, Ben”s that could be heard throughout the night, Harper quipped that he thought his wife would be glad to know how many of the voices were male.

Other notes:

--Harper played a total of 6 different guitars all evening – two standard acoustic, a telecaster, a les paul and then some electric on a stand which he played slide-stile and his signature laptop slide acoustic.

--Songs both fast and slow, but everything maintained a gospel-like or revival rock tone. Great vibe. Many songs from newest album from what I understand from chats with more ardent fans than myself.

--Closed out the set after about 75 minutes and the crowd cheered him for a good five minutes before a new set list was put out.

--Opened encore with an eerie solo song on his acoustic slide, with sitar-like tones and Indian rhythms.

--Did a Dylan cover with opener Piers Faccini and the rest of the criminals next.

--After two more songs, had a brief off-mic conversation with somebody from the theater, after which he returned to the mic and said “Well, this song’s gonna cost me an extra $500, but we’re doing it anyway.”

--Played last song and we were out the door at 11:15 p.m.

--Tristan Johnson, special to the SF Weekly

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