Diamonds on the inside: Harper with a heart of gold
Thursday 06 February 2020
Whether it is the surf or the sunshine that brings Ben Harper back to our shores, the American
singer-songwriter is once again heading to New Zealand with his band The Innocent Criminals to play
a six-date tour that includes Mount Park (formerly Sopher Reserve).
A chameleon of genres and instruments, Harper is something of a musical genius. Love or hate his
hits, there’s no denying his staying power: A three-time Grammy Award winner and seven-time
nominee, with 14 studio albums under his belt – including his most recent in 2018, ‘No Mercy In This
Land’ with blues legend Charlie Musselwhite.
Harper’s is joined by his band, The Innocent Criminals, have been with him for much of the journey.
Tracing their roots back to 1993, The Innocent Criminals (percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan
Nelson and drummer Oliver Charles) have been involved in most of his projects and have toured the
globe nonstop, earning legions of fans thanks to explosive live performances.
As well as being an aural experience, Harper’s music is often a mouthpiece for issues close to this
activist’s heart, from his stance against nuclear power to our crippling relationship with the planet
and how we could be doing more (is he the OG Greta?)
Harper is an active member of a number of causes, notably the New Light Boys’ Home in India, which
provides the sons of women who are in prostitution the opportunity to grow up in a safe and secure
environment and realize their full potential. He’s also an avid skateboarder, and is a supporter of the
Tony Hawk Foundation, which promotes and provides funds for high-quality public skateparks
throughout the United States.
One of the defining musicians of a generation, experience Harper’s musical journey this summer
when he takes to the stage on February 28 – sit back and enjoy the vibe.
Ben Harper’s Top Hits (According to Spotify)
1. Diamonds On The Inside (Classic radio hit of the 2000s)
2. Boa Sorte (‘Good Luck’ in Portuguese; a bi-lingual duet with singer Vanessa da Mata)
3. Burn One Down (Off his 1995 album ‘Fight For Your Mind’; in true Marley style, it is a pro-weed
4. High Tide or Low Tide (Speaking of Marley, this is a bangin’ cover of the Marley hit with frequent
collaborator Jack Johnson)
5. Forever (From his debut album in 1994. After this album, he added The Innocent Criminals as his
permanent backing band, but they remained unnamed until Burn To Shine in 1999… when Steal
My Kisses hit the airwaves).
From TV celeb to recluse
Joining Harper on his New Zealand tour is Australian Matt Corby, who has been dominating the airwaves
with his current singles. But despite appearing a relative newcomer for New Zealand, Matt has been on
the scene since age 16, landing himself the runner-up position in ‘Australian Idol’ in 2007 – every teens’
While many careers have been launched through the reality TV platform, Corby called the experience “a
big f***ing mistake” as it wasn’t his jam at all and it would be nine years before he released his debut
album. As they say, time heals all wounds and as fate would have it he was rewarded for his patience
with a number one position on the Australian charts and a Gold ARIA certification.
His latest and sophomore album, ‘Rainbow Valley’, sees Corby in the role of singer, songwriter and band
as he plays all instruments on the record. It’s named after his secluded five-acre home near Sydney
where he and his family reside – a stark contrast from the life that could have been for this former Idol
It was also written and recorded in a period that also saw the birth of his first child, and his songs are
brimming with a new-found vitality and joy, a fresh energy that finds perfect expression in a
kaleidoscopic reimagining of the sound he has honed for the last decade.
From the surreal, dreamlike splendour of first single ‘No Ordinary Life’ – which was on high-rotation on
Australia’s triple j radio station – to the soulful majesty of the title track, ‘Rainbow Valley’ reveals an artist
who seems both more aware of what he wants and why he wants it.
His quiet, soothing sound – a blend of indie-psychedelic-surf pop-rock – perfectly complements Harper’s
approach and no doubt audiences will be hoping for an onstage jam from this pair of eclectic performers.