On March 14th, 1998 I went to see Ben Harper at Massey Hall in Toronto. I always sort of thought that Toronto fans were more fun than Ottawa crowds (though certainly neither can touch the enthusiasm of Montreal fans) but this show proved me wrong.
I had good seats on the floor (a rarity for me in this venue) and I really liked the show. How could I not? Ben Harper is the real deal; he’s got soul, he’s got a great feel and a great vibe, he surrounds himself with impeccable players and he’s got great chops on those wonderful old Weissenborn guitars that he favours.
But the man struggled to get the crowd onboard the whole night. The whole crowd (myself included) remained glued to our seats, content to sit and politely revel in the music despite Harper’s repeated calls for us to get up, stand up and get into the groove.
He even played Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up, moving about the stage and beckoning to us all and still every last one of us kept to our seats (again, myself included).
Come to think of it, I could have started a revolution. With my seat way up at the front I was in a great position to get up, stand up and spur the people behind me to do the same. By the time the folks behind them rose to their feet the whole room might have gotten in on it which would have unquestionably amped up the band and with all that extra energy everyone probably would have had an unforgettable night! The papers would have written about it, “Concert Of The Year!” they’d say; people would one day lie to their grandchildren claiming to have been there; Ben Harper himself would write at least two songs about it and all of his future shows at Massey Hall would draw fans from around the world, each hoping against hope that they too would have the opportunity to stand up and create the legendary energy that erupted in the room that fabled evening so many years ago.
But I didn’t. I stayed sitting down like everyone else, clapping along like a boring lump.
It was still a good concert.