Ben Harper & Trombone Shorty August 11, 2019, Deer Valley

By: Tiffany Mull

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

It’s impossible to hold your head steady when Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are playing. After Jessy Wilson warmed up the crowd, Troy Andrews and his band took the stage by storm with two full drum sets, three guitars (one bass), two saxophones (tenor and baritone), two backup singers, and Troy himself alternating between the trombone, trumpet, and vocals—nothing short of epic.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

They started with “Where It At,” followed by a burning jazz instrumental with Troy shining on his trombone as he rocked and bopped across the stage. The saxophonists tilted, stepped, turned, and gestured in choreographed rhythm. The energy was infectious. “Ain’t No Use” featured a volcanic solo for the tenor sax (BK Jackson). Long, indulgent instrumentals featured each artist in turn. When the baritone sax soloed (Dan Oestreicher), it was like being serenaded by some sexy, freak-lipped mammoth from the ice age.

Troy’s ululating trombone lent emotive force to the bluesy beat and lyrics of “No Good Time.” “Long Weekend” amped up the funk until it melded into a blended cover of “Get Down On It” and “Make it Funky” with plenty of improvisation. The encore introed with “Hurricane Season,” which bled into a sped-up version of “Do to Me.” It was great getting a taste of The Big Easy in Park City.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Ben Harper sat on a chair with a slide guitar on his lap. Leon Mobley manned percussion (congas, cajón, bongos, and djembe), Oliver Charles had the drums, and Juan Nelson gave me musically-induced arrhythmia with the bass. They opened with “Gold to Me.”

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Ben stood with an electric guitar for “Stealing Kisses.” Leon switched between the cajón and bongos while Juan played slap bass. There is a constant tenderness to Ben’s voice and music, even on his livelier pieces.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Ben stood alone on the stage with an acoustic guitar for “Walk Away,” after which his bandmates rejoined him for the playful pot anthem, “Burn One Down” during which Leon owned the stage with his djembe (someone in the audience definitely lit up, you could smell it).

The band jammed on their instruments at the end of “Fight for Your Mind” for a solid nine minutes. The bassist approached the mic and explained, “This is the part of the show where me and Ben get to express ourselves; we get to do a little battling back and forth. Is that cool with you?” The audience cheered of course. It was heaven. Ben got crafty with the wah pedal as he clicked and slapped his guitar; Juan riffed, altered, and raised the stakes each time in response. It went back and forth until Ben used his slide guitar to stump him. “See, this is where he gets me every time,” Juan said, “I can’t slide.”

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

They covered “Changes,” with Juan singing Buddy’s part and Ben playing Jimi’s guitar. During “Diamonds on the Inside,” Ben stepped out from behind the mic and stood in front of the speakers singing with only his natural voice, almost a cappella save for gentle rim clicks and the lightest hint of bass. They covered “Machine Gun,” another Hendrix piece, using percussive riffs and distortion to evoke the battlefield (gunfire, bombs, helicopters, etc.).

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals funked things up with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” The encore was the calm, melancholic “Welcome to the Cruel World.” “Long live Stockton to Malone!” Ben said on his way out.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

Ben Harper Setlist:

Gold to Me

Stealing Kisses

Whipping Boy

Will to Live

Walk Away

Burn One Down

Fight for Your Mind


Diamonds on the Inside

Machine Gun


Welcome to the Cruel World

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