Ben Harper

Selected by Dan Grunebaum


There' classic rock, and then there's classy rock. Young American Ben Harper may never be inducted into the rock Hall of Fame occupied by hallowed rock figures such as Clapton and Dylan. But he certainly does produce classy music, whipping up oh-so-tasty confections of folk, blues, rock, reggae and soul that pay tribute to classic rock, without being overly derivative.

Harper may not possess the genius of a Clapton or a Dylan, but he's so damn talented that his upcoming Tokyo shows will surely be among the highlights of this spring's concert calendar.

Born fittingly in 1969 - the year of Woodstock - Ben Harper was reared in a family of musicians: his father plays drums and his mother, guitar and vocals. Growing up, Harper was exposed to a spectrum of sounds ranging from the blues of Taj Mahal to the folk of Dylan to the reggae of Bob Marley, all figures whose influences can be heard in his songs.

Favoring the distinctive Weissenborn slide guitar, built in the '20s, Harper debuted with Welcome to the Cruel World in 1994. Amid the sameness of third-generation classic rockers like the Black Crowes, Harper's eccentric instrumentation and vocal style stood out. He also didn't shy away from politics, referring to the black struggle in songs like "Like A King" about Martin Luther King and Rodney King.

Harper's second album, Fight For Your Mind, was a revelation to this writer - a welcome reminder that despite 30 years having passed since the death of Hendrix, areas of blues rock still remain to be explored.

With his third album, The Will to Live, Harper traded in his acoustic for an electric guitar, and also introduced his fine touring band, The Innocent Criminals. 1999's Burn to Shine was his most successful album yet, landing him a headlining world tour and opening slots for the Dave Matthews Band, REM and Radiohead.

Harper's intelligent alternative to Lenny Kravitz's chest-baring retro-rock has also earned him a loyal following in Japan, meaning his two Liquid Room shows are likely to sell out.

Ben Harper plays Shinjuku Liquid Room on June 16-17. See listings for details.

Concert Listings
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel


392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana