BY JOE DeSANTI | Go Venue Magazine
Three-time Grammy Award-Winning artist Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals played to a great crowd at the Stir Cove Summer Concert Series in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Thursday night August 15th.
The concert opened with Brooklyn-based artist Jessy Wilson. Wilson is no stranger to the stage, previously singing backup for Alicia Keys, before going solo in 2013. Decked out in a bright orange t-shirt and skin-tight orange vinyl pants, Wilson captured the crowd’s attention with her smooth R&B sound and sultry vocals. Rolling Stone Magazine compared her vocal style to Aretha Franklin, and I predict that she’s on the verge of superstardom. She performed songs from her album, “Phase”, which was released earlier this year. Wilson was the perfect choice to open this show.
Next to the stage was Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Shorty mostly played the trombone and trumpet during this set, but was accompanied by two female backup singers, two drummers, three guitarists, and two saxophone players. To say the ensemble was a crowd pleaser would be an understatement. They had concertgoers on their feet, dancing in the crowd, and waving their arms back and forth from the moment they hit the stage, until the closing moments of their set. Originally from New Orleans, Shorty brought the sweet jazz sounds of Louisiana with him to Council Bluffs, and the crowd loved every second of it. Shorty is used to being in the spotlight, having won numerous awards and performing music in television shows such as, “NCIS New Orleans”, “The Late Show with David Letterman”, “The Simpsons”, and a slew of others. The group performed for almost an hour and played songs from their albums, “Parking Lot Symphony”, “Say That To Say This”, “For True”, and “Backatown.” Their upbeat sounds and energy perfectly set the stage for the headliner of the evening.
After prepping the stage with a giant round rug, repositioning some of the microphones and instruments, and lighting some incense, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals took the stage. Harper started his set sitting down and playing the lap steel guitar, which had an interesting sound. The group started out with the song, “Gold To Me”, from their 1995 release, “Fight For Your Mind.” Their 13-song set featured original songs from their other albums, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s, “Superstition”, and a two-song encore to close the show. Originally born in California, Harper has recorded music for numerous films and television shows, and is a three-time Grammy Award winner. His musical stylings can best be described as a cross between Folk, Blues, Soul, and Funk. Concertgoers sang along as the band performed some of their mainstream hits, “Steal My Kisses”, and “Diamonds On The Inside.” Harper is the kind of artist that you can feel their emotions when they’re performing. His rich, soulful voice and instrumental talents proved why he’s an international superstar. This was an awesome show!