Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ben Harper Rocks the Flynn!

posted by Lani Stack
Flynn Marketing Manager, Editor

As one of Northern New England's largest performance venues, the Flynn occasionally has the opportunity to rent out our historic Flynn Theatre to other performing arts presenters in the community (on nights which we don't have our own shows, of course). One such partnership is with South Burlington's Higher Ground, which has brought major headline performers such as Ani DiFranco and Feist to the Flynn's own MainStage in the past year. Last night, Higher Ground presented Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals at the Flynn—hot on the heels of Harper's sold-out performance at NYC's Radio City Music Hall on Saturday and a studio recording for Late Night with Conan O'Brien (to air tomorrow)—and Burlington couldn't have been more excited.

The sold-out show was everything I expected: Harper's powerful, eloquent, and familiar lyrics blended with his masterful playing on the electric, acoustic, and slide guitars, as well as the piano; the excited energy of friends and fellow Harper fans nearby lent an added charge to the air. There was some dancing, (I glanced behind me several times to watch my friend Janet boogying in the first row of the balcony), and a little hollering, (after several fans shouted out song requests, one magnanimous patron shouted "Just play what you want, Ben!"), but the crowd primarily just sat back and appreciated the man, his band, and their talents. (See the Burlington set list.)

Always the gentleman, Harper was nattily dressed in a tailored gray three-piece suit, and his talented five-member band was equally swanky in suits and hats. He spoke with a quiet, serene voice and seemed truly appreciative of the audience's enthusiasm. As my friend and colleague Flynn Box Office Agent Chaim Rochester said today, "I was impressed with his level of humility and grace. It's nice to see that still happens."

Harper interrupted the show at least four times to praise the Flynn's historic Art Deco decor—enthusiastic and charming observations that I found particularly profound, as I also love and am awed by this spectacular space. Visibly wowed, he memorably asked his lighting crew to swing the stage lights out into the concert hall "so I can see this beautiful theater," adding, "There aren't many like these left any more." He also pointed out details such as our large, restored Art Deco facades, which flank the stage. His own simple set of lighted chandeliers was the perfect complement to the Flynn's elegance.

The showstopper, and the piece which cemented my own appreciation for Ben Harper, was his heart-wrenching a capella solo of Where Could I Go, sung without a microphone! Every person in each of the theater's 1,453 seats fell silent, breath held, before erupting into a standing ovation upon his completion.

I think everyone who attended last night's show will join me in this invitation: Ben, you can always come back to Burlington!

all photographs surreptitiously taken (sans flash, of course) by Lani Stack


Sky said...

Well said Lani. I agree with everything you wrote, and reading this description "took me back" to the concert. I'll add that I wish it was longer, as I believe he played for about 2 hours and the whole crowd wished he'd go on longer. But what he did play was so full of energy from start to finish.

Also the opening band was worth mentioning as a good band too. What was the opening singers name? He joined Ben Harper and his innocent criminals at the end too. Oh, and the rockin six stringed bassist in Ben's band was amazing too. A real character!

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts said...

Thanks, Sky.

The opening band was Piers Faccini
( The band is named after its leader, British singer/songwriter Piers Faccini, and they were great. I didn't even realize that Piers joined the band at the end, thanks for pointing that out!

- Lani

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