The night at Wolf Trap belonged to Ben Harper. Debuting his first solo performance in a career that spans two decades, fans were treated to an acoustic jam that was pure ecstasy for the ears. Ben Harper’s musical talent was clearly evident as he played most of his songs rotating between his acoustic and slide guitars while crooning lovely songs about life, love, loss, and lessons learned. Yes, even the sad songs are lovely when sung by a gently soulful voice like Harper’s, whose lyrical genius goes down so smoothly like chocolate covered strawberries.
Good attention was given to the songs that were accompanied by the beautiful sounds he produces on his slide guitar, brilliantly showing off his skills for which he is known for, an instrumental solo piece and my personal favorite, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujiah.” Enhanced by the excellent acoustics in the Filene Center Stage at Wolf Trap, the expressive melodies reverberating in the partially open arena enveloped you like a warm close hug from the person you love the most.
About half-way through the set, Ben remarked about the lovely acoustics at Wolf Trap, likening it to a church, in a good way, and how he was surprised he didn’t know a place like this existed but was glad to have found it. He also exclaimed how much he loved playing in this venue where the cacophony of cicadas made him feel like he was playing in nature.
Sitting in the audience, the ambiance evokes feelings of pure pleasure, comfort and joy. Add to that, two hours of Ben Harper’s finest musical efforts and you can understand how you might leave feeling the happiness buzz. Considering the many songs Ben has put out over the years, he managed to play a nice variety from his selection of albums. Among the setlist this evening were fan favorites like, “Burn One Down,” “Forever,” “Another Lonely Day,” “When It’s Good,” “Don’t Give Up On Me Now,” and “Younger Than Today.” Here’s the full set list from last night’s concert.
Opening for Ben Harper was Rickie Lee Jones, who last played at Wolf Trap twenty years ago. Most may know Rickie Lee Jones from her hit single “Chuck E.’s In Love.” For those unfamiliar with her sound, she’s a soulful singer with a unique voice, strumming her guitar and singing about love, life, and times past. The real strength lies in the lyrics of Rickie Lee Jones’ songs – with lines like, “. . . don’t be sad the sun went down because the moon is made of gold. . .” and “. . .she wore a switchblade on a chain around her neck. . .”– that tell powerful stories about the important people in her life.
During her 55-minute set, Rickie introduced two new songs from her new album The Devil You Know, comprised of covers of well-known songs, coming out later this month. One was a cover of “Sympathy For The Devil,” that Ben Harper attempted to join in a duet playing his slide guitar but an unfortunate technical glitch only left him time to play the last few chords with Rickie. This would’ve been amazing to hear the entire duet live with Ben on his slide guitar in this venue but these things happen. The other was “Masterpiece,” written by Ben Harper, which was the final encore song of Ben’s setlist, and featured Rickie singing and strumming her guitar while Ben accompanied her on his guitar. It was beautiful way to end a memorable night.
Ben Harper and Rickie Lee Jones appeared for one night only on September 4, 2012 at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center - 1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. To view upcoming events at Wolf Trap, check their calendar.
Don’t miss the chance to hear Ben Harper if he comes to a city near you. Here is the full tour information.