Ben Harper is one of those one-man-bands you have to see in person to believe. From the regular guitar to the Weissenborn slide guitar, he can carry a tune on just about any guitar that can carry a tune, among other instruments. But he doesn't just fly solo, the singer/songwriter recently reunited with his former band, the Innocent Criminals, and the whole gang is coming to the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
His seven-year hiatus from the Innocent Criminals celebrated its return with a worldwide tour, including Brazil, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Canada, and now they are back on the U.S. mainland. The Innocent Criminals are percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Oliver Charles, keyboardist Jason Yates and guitarist Michael Ward. Mobley, Nelson and Charles are founding members and have been a part of Harper's sound since the beginning. This year also brought a new bride to Harper; he tied the knot with social advocate Jaclyn Matfus. Harper was formerly married to Wild Academy Award nominee for supporting actress Laura Dern since 2005, divorced since 2013.
Harper is a three-time Grammy winner, including: Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album (There Will Be a Light) in 2005 and Best Blues Album (Get Up!, featuring Charlie Musselwhite) in 2014. Childhood Home was his twelfth and most recent studio album. His diversity of genres that he has won awards in is impressive, and he also dabbles in folk, soul, reggae and rock. (His folk roots date back to his grandparents' music store "The Folk Music Center and Museum," which was frequented by Leonard Cohen, John Darnielle, David Lindley and Taj Mahal (who he toured with in the late '80s as a teen).
His first, appropriately-named album was Welcome to the Cruel World in 1994. Shortly after, he debuted in France, and has steadily grown in his international acclaim since then, being crowned Artist of the Year in the French Rolling Stone magazine Artiste De L'Année in 2003. In 2006, his double album Both Sides of the Gun debuted at number seven on the Billboard charts. In 2008, his collaboration with Brazilian singer Vanessa da Mata on the song "Boa Sorte/Good Luck" was the number one song in Brazil and Portugal, and it won "Best Song" of 2008 on Brazil's esteemed "Prêmio Multishow."
Harper and his music also have proven to bring the appropriate emotional component to multiple TV shows and movies including: The "O.C.," "CSI:NY," "House," "The Vampire Diaries," I am Sam (2001) and Akeelah and the Bee (2005).
Harper's other passion in life is social activism. He is involved with the No Nukes group, against expansion of nuclear power, along with multiple political and humanitarian efforts throughout his career—and his music is his greatest platform. In 2004, he was part of the Vote for Change tour encouraging swing states to vote during the 2014 U.S. presidential election. He also recorded the song "Oppression" on the benefit album, For the Lady, that year, the goal of which was to raise awareness of the jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner and Burmese pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi. He also supports Little Kids Rock, a national nonprofit committed to revitalizing music education in disadvantaged U.S. public schools.
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals
6 pm, Sunday, September 6
Les Schwab Amphitheater