03.11.03 New York City, NY

Bowery Ballroom

I Was There
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The band teased Bob Marley's "Slave Driver" in "With My Own Two Hands" and Sly & The Family Stone's "Thankful N' Thoughtful" in "Bring The Funk."

Who Went

  • TIM's picture
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gpluna747630406's picture

This show was Amazing! Standing Directly in front of Juan all night was Great! The passion this band plays with is awe-inspiring. And i certainly concur that Slave Driver was amazing...As i write this, nearly two years after the show, i can recall almost every second. My Sister and I are both faithful, devoted and loving BHIC fans who will travel long distances, climb the highest mountains for experiences such as this!
Thank you to the whole band for sharing the love!
Be Well and Keep Rockin'!
peace - Greg Luna -
ps. Diggin' all the creations and side projects y'all are workin' on!

anonymous's picture

This was my thirty -fifth time seeing Ben and the IC's. Back in the summer of 2000, rumors of Ben going more reggae were swirling around the message board being posted by Evil Vince, so I believed him. After a three year wait, Ben finally went more reggae! Six reggae style dance tunes that were powerful, moving and worth the wait. Highlights were I Shall Not Walk Alone and Slave Driver (Every time I hear the crack of a whip my blood runs cold, I remember on the slave ship how they took the lives of every soul...good God i think it's illiteracy, only machine to make money Slave Driver, the table has turned Lord, Catch Your Fire your gonna get burned). The energy of the band and crowd perfectly meshed which is probably due to the strong legion of followers who I talked with. I found people who traveled from Vermont, Texas, California, and many of the familiar faces of the crowded line waiting 6 hours in the New York cold on a Saturday morning.
Ben did not disappoint with his new more natural sound. Highlights were seeing the talented new musicians Nicky and Mike, old friends Leon and Oliver, and of course new Juan Nelson solos. The man plays with his eyes closed, he just radiates funk. And, Ben played three different instruements for entire songs. I thought he was the best when I first saw him in 95, but now he is THE musician to see play. Playing the three bongos on 'Blessed to be a Witness', and the keyboard on 'Bring the Funk' blew me away.
As a long time fan, I enjoyed the One Road to Freedom story and it was the best performance of that song ever. He held the notes so long guys and the crowd was so quiet. I left the show feeling that my days of standing only ten feet away from the band were probably over. I'd hate to be repetitive, but the new sound is going to keep growing stronger and so will his loyal fans. But, I love the change. Change is good.

anonymous's picture

It's two days after the Bowery Ballroom show, and I'm still reeling. First of all, I was lucky to even attend this intimate gathering, given that I was one of the very few people rewarded with a ticket for waiting in line hours before the show (much love to my dear friends who I met in line and shared this experience with). What's even more amazing is that I'm from San Francisco, and only found out about the Bowery show by chance while traveling in New York. I was also fortunate enough to attend the live taping of the Band's Late Show appearance the day before.

I've been to roughly seven Ben Harper shows, and I've never been so moved. Mostly, I just felt proud. Proud of Ben and proud of the Band for finally seizing the infinite potential that we've all know was there, and creating something that truly pushes musical boundaries. They are experimenting with varied styles, and the recently expanded Innocent Criminals are beginning to gel. Most importantly, Ben's passion for his music is so evidently stronger than ever.

As for the show itself, let me just say that the Ben faithful are in for a treat . . . the new songs are intricate, melodic, and thanks to the addition of a keyboard and accompanying guitar, create a much fuller sound. While at first I was unsure about Ben standing upright with an electric guitar and Nikki P. standing in that previously unoccupied space to Ben's right, my fears subsided when I realized the new depth added to songs like "Excuse Me Mr" and "Shall Not."

A few highlights of the show: "Forgiven" followed by "Temporary Remedy" almost floored me. If it's possible to communicate musically both anguish and redemption simultaneously, then that's exactly what Ben did right here. The hard-driving "Remedy" provided an opportunity for the people to boogie, and that's just what we did.

Ben's solo encore was magnificent. You could hear a pin drop, or perhaps a tear, as Ben belted the final verse of "Roses." And quite possibly the most beautiful version of "Waiting on an Angel" that I've ever been fortunate enough to hear.

While the final encore was not as strong as a typical Ben finale usually is, the percussive "Blessed to be a Witness" seemed almost perfectly placed as the anchor of the encore set. It was satisfying to see Ben experiment with other instruments as the Criminals went to work. Overall, a great show by a band just beginning to feel out its new material. Luckily, they'll be hitting the Greek Theater in Berkeley (where I'm at) at the end of the tour, so I'm looking forward to even greater things.

cjadamonk1920's picture

I would first like to say that this was only my third time seeing Ben. The first two times I saw Ben & the Innocents was when they opened for Pearl Jam in Downing Stadium. That was my first taste and I have become a huge lover of his music ever since.
The show sold out in about 10 minutes so I had to take other avenues to get tickets.
I was surprised to see Nicky on guitar and the guy on keys- don't remember his name- sorry dude! They were both very much into the show and were very entertaining to watch.
My girlfriend and I are Latin and we wanted to make sure Juan knew we were in the house so as soon as he came on stage we let him have it with a chorus of Juanitos and Juans! Let me just say this right now- is anyone any funkier on bass right now than Juan!? WOW! I was also very impressed with the keys players' back ups! Go white boy...Go! ;-)
Loved the reggae versions of the opening tunes. Mr. and Jah were off the hook!
The show started off with such a bang but then I thought it waivered a little because of all the new songs that were in the setlist. You know they'll get tighter though....
What happened to Dean Butterworth btw?
The new drummer Mike was awesome -don't get me wrong but the new additions to the band seemed to affect the tightness of the band as a unit. Loved seeing Ben get on the drums a little too. Leon you are an incredible conga player man! Thanks! I got lost in your drumming!

The most intriguing moment of the show was when Ben began to discuss how proud and privileged he felt to be playing for us in NYC. He then said, "cause you guys are nine eleven!" The crowd seemed taken aback by this remark. I know I was a little. Having lost my cousin and three close friends (all firefighters) that day I can honestly say the last thing I usually wanna talk about or think about for that matter, is 911. I believe most NY'ers who lost someone are still grieving in their own ways. I thought it was a very sweet thing to say but I'm just not sure it was the time and place. No blame on Ben here....I just felt like "Oh man...I wanna escape those thoughts and that's why I came to see you Ben. You bring an easiness to my mind with your tunes, ya know man?" He was very aware of the vibe afterwards because a couple of songs later he asked "I didn't like get to heavy on you guys with that talk before did I? Oh okay...just making sure...cool!" I thought that was one of the best moments. There are few performers out there today that will speak directly and openly to their audience and touch them deeply by doing so, like Ben does. My girlfriend and I couldn't wait for him to sit down and tell a story. And when he obliged us with the tale of his dream- all was good in our worlds. :-)
Also- about 3 quarters in Ben walked over to the people in the front of the stage and shook hands with numerous people. It's so great to see a performer of his stature that GETS IT!

Another note- I had a guy behind ( a little Italian guy from Brooklyn) that put it the best! He said "wow....ya blink and he's already played an hour and a half and there are still so many songs I want to hear!"

I kept yelling this all night and I hope that Ben heard it but if not I will yell it again- NY Style- "Thank You Ben!"

You ease our worried minds!

byrnejs's picture

I've been to a lot of ben shows, and I must say this one was truly amazing. He was just so charismatic on stage, his prescence warmed the room. You could just feel the adrenaline running in his veins, it was truly amazing. Opening up with Mr., Jah, and Shall Not was very different. He played them all in the new reggae arrangement. I Shall Not was personally my highlight in that part of the show. It was just amazing to hear it played in that style. When the band broke out in Brown Eyed Blues, it was just such a dream to see Juan soloing again. It's been such a long time. When She Believes, was also played in a reggae style, and that was very warming. However, I was absolutely blown away when Ben broke out Two Hands and went into Marley's Slave Driver. My jaw truly dropped.

The encore's were very well done as well. Ben even discussed the birth of One Road to Freedom, which was an amazing story about a dream he had. One song missing from the Encore set there is She's Only Happy in the Sun. Bring the Funk was also unbelievable, i mean talk about an extended jam. They went into a Sly and the Family Stone song, but I'm not sure which one.

Ultimately, the show was a very good one. It was nice to see Ben and the Criminals in New York City again. One could definitely see and hear that they are tentative right now, however, just wait until they return. It is going to be insane. They just need to learn each other and start rolling on all cylinders. Once that happens everyone will witness some unbelievable shows. So, get ready, because the Criminals are back. Can't wait to see them again.