For a guy who has been performing for over two decades, collaborating with some of the biggest names in the biz and selling millions of records, Ben Harper still has an awfully long to-do list.
For starters, he wants to record an instrumental album of slide guitar; he wants to record a reggae album; and he wants to release a second record with blues legend Charlie Musselwhite. (Their first, Get Up!, won a Grammy for best blues album last year.)
But first, the politically minded singer, songwriter, guitarist and humanitarian is reuniting with his long-time band the Innocent Criminals, recording an album of new material and hitting the road for an international tour – their first in seven years.
Shortly after the announcement, fans began snapping up tickets; four nights at the Fillmore in San Francisco, a venue that helped propel Mr. Harper to mainstream fame, sold out almost instantly. The group later added a Vancouver date.
"They're brothers to me. I've known them all for over 20 years – and I know where they're going musically before they even go there," Mr. Harper told an interviewer at Australia's Byron Bay Bluesfest. "There's a certain amount of telepathy and mind-reading that goes on creatively with these guys that is unlike any other environment I've ever been a part of."
Renowned for his unique style, which is infused with rock, blues, folk, reggae, soul and other styles, Mr. Harper first rose to international acclaim in the mid-1990s with albums including Fight For Your Mind, The Will To Live and Burn to Shine, and he continues to perform many of those songs live.
He's also known for his political and humanitarian efforts, supporting groups from No Nukes (which opposes the expansion of nuclear power) to Little Kids Rock (music education), and contributing to benefit albums including Songs for Tibet and For the Lady, for Myanmarese pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi. Earlier this year he married social advocate Jaclyn Matfus, whom he reportedly met while working on a concert to combat child trafficking in India.
But the Californian musician feels most at home on the live stage where his prowess on guitar – and slide in particular – really shines.
"I love it. Other than skateboarding, it's what I love to do the absolute most. And every gig still feels like my first," said Mr. Harper, who has one more goal he is always striving to reach. "I'm still trying to get to the best song that I know I haven't written."
Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals will be at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park on Friday (ticketmaster.ca).