Ben Harper + Raphael Saadiq
20 May 2011: World Cafe Live at the Queen Wilmington, DE
Philadelphia radio station WXPN’s 11th Annual Non-COMMvention (Non-commercial radio) lined up several great bands to entertain attendees, including The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bright Eyes, The Civil Wars, Robbie Robertson, Junip and some local bands. In concert with their own exceptional Free-At-Noon series, XPN held the conference in Wilmington, Delaware to draw more attention to their new venue, the gritty yet elegant World Café Live at The Queen (sister to the Philly icon). Perhaps they will be able to get Delaware onto band’s radars and make the up-and-coming city a hotspot for shows. On the Friday, two major artists, Ben Harper and Raphael Saadiq, “sold out” the free event in turn taking the stage to promote their newest albums, Give Till It’s Gone and Stone Rollin’, respectively.
Harper began his set with the new album’s opener, the powerful “Don’t Give up on Me Now”, singing in a plaintive style. Alternating guitars between songs, he stood with his electric or sat with his lap steel, tearing it up on whichever form. Perhaps due to time constraints, he refrained from any monologue and gave short responses to a few comments tossed out from the audience. Though didn’t give the audience any older songs, Harper certainly can’t be faulted for that. But it is uncertain if the newer songs, like the aggressive “Dirty Little Lover” stuck with the audience, especially considering the great follow up performance.
Saadiq’s set was a total throwback to the ‘60s and ‘70s and created a truly feel-good soul vibe that had people putting their hands together and shaking. Unfamiliar with his album, I did not initially discern the songs were not tributes to a bygone era. He, along with his backup singers and band, was far more appreciative and engaging with the crowd. After a faux pas where he shouted out “Philadelphia”, Saadiq realized his mistake and gave props to Delaware, confessing he had just woken up and jokingly passing the blame onto someone else. “Stone Rollin’” had a particular memorable highlight, the lively keyboardist really got into the groove singing backup and dancing.
Ben Harper Photo Credits: Sachyn Mital
Raphael Saadiq Photo Credits: Sachyn Mital