Ben Harper rocks Paradise with Relentless7

A review of Ben Harper and the Relentless7 at the Paradise Rock Club on May 10, 2009

, Staff Writer

For over two hours on Sunday night, Ben Harper and The Relentless7 entertained an sardine-packed audience at the Paradise Rock Club,showing their rock chops and entertaining the crowd in spite of extreme claustrophobia.

Harper has come a long way. He originally found success in 1994 with Welcome To The Cruel World, a folky album rife with songs that playedthroughout dorm rooms even through the 2000s. Having conquered theacoustic guitar, Harper decided in 2008 to tackle good old-fashionedrock and roll, and formed Relentless7. Comprised entirely of Texasmusicians, his new band released White Lies For Dark Times less thantwo weeks ago and have been touring across the country in support ofthe album since.

The Relentless7 showed that they meant business right off the bat,immediately busting out a cover of Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times”, which allowed Harper not only to demonstrate his technique on the guitar (which he can play the crap out of), but also his vocal prowess. He’s no Robert Plant, but credit where credit is due, Mr.Harper did the song justice. Then, in a nod to where he had come from, the band performed “Better Way”, a cut off of Ben Harper & TheInnocent Criminals’ 2006 album, Both Sides Of The Gun.

From there, the band went on to play nearly every song off White Lies For Dark Times.The album is a strong one in the studio, but the band turned it into alive spectacle with impressive skill: often the band would stretch asong past seven minutes, Harper and Jason Mozersky trading offextended solos with one another. “Fly One Time”, which is musically close to Harper’s work prior to the Relentless7, was stretched out to six minutes or so, and Harper showed off his trilling abilities. But it was “Keep It Together (So I Can Fall Apart)” that would be the evening’s biggest straight-up jam. A Cream-esque rocker, Mozersky and Harper took their sweet time getting to the end of their solos. Mozersky’s playing changed in character with every solo – his first was more about the space in between the notes than the notes themselves, while later in the song he was rocking back and forth,laying down a ridiculous riff. A number of members of the audience didn’t really seem to enjoy these lengthy jams, unfortunately, and settled into confused “woo”ing from a lack of anything to really rock out to. Not to say that the guitar playing wasn’t excellent – in fact,I think this says more about the audience than it does about the Relentless7.

On occasion Harper would simply disappear from view, nowhere to befound. It was at these points that he was seated, playing a lap steelguitar with no apparent change in technique, laying down chords andmelodies masterfully. One sentiment that definitely pervaded throughout the band was an excitement at doing something new: Harperis clearly stoked to be performing in a rock and roll band, virtually destroying his guitar because he’s playing it so hard, letting theband jam for lengthy periods of time, leaning back and staring up ashe played. At one point he even jumped out onto the very front of thestage, extending himself well into the audience.

Ben Harper’s new band is definitely one to pay attention to in the coming year: their new album is solid, and they aren’t afraid to manipulate its form in a live setting. It’s always enjoyable to see aband that really loves being up on stage. In spite of a huge crowdfilled with overly excited, pushy fans, the Relentless7 provided athoroughly entertaining show for everyone. Hopefully his next stint in Boston will be at a larger venue like the House of Blues. The improved acoustics will make the band sound even better, and this is absolutelya band that can start selling out those places once they pick up enough steam.

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