Massey Hall came close. The 118-year-old “Old Lady of Shuter Street,” which Harper referred to at one point during his two-hour-plus set as “one of the most beautiful music halls anywhere in the world,” provided the ideal atmosphere for the eclectic musician’s spontaneity and crowd interaction.">

Ben Harper and Massey Hall made beautiful music together on Saturday


Published:

Rare is the concert that offers the perfect marriage of venue and performer, but Saturday night’s Ben Harper show at Massey Hall came close. The 118-year-old “Old Lady of Shuter Street,” which Harper referred to at one point during his two-hour-plus set as “one of the most beautiful music halls anywhere in the world,” provided the ideal atmosphere for the eclectic musician’s spontaneity and crowd interaction.

Harper earned the affection of his fans early on when he demonstrated his wide-ranging musical skills by going through eight different instruments (a piano, a keyboard and six different guitars) within the first hour of the set, highlighted by an extended slide guitar riff. His need to change things up bordered on the obsessive — no two consecutive songs featured the same instrumental accompaniment.

The crowd played along, not just cheering every change in Harper’s musical arsenal, but also shouting out song requests (many of which were answered, including “Pleasure and Pain” and “Another Lonely Day”) and vocalizing their affection for the singer-songwriter. At one point, a male audience member told the 42-year-old that “you got me shaking right down to my toes.” The quick-witted Harper took the comment in stride, suggesting that he could use that line as a song lyric and even offered the shirt off his back in exchange for the rights to it.

For all the love that Harper received from the crowd on hand, he gave plenty of it back. On top of the requests and fan interaction, he serenaded a couple seated in the front row with his love ballad “Forever.” He also engaged the crowd with stories about Bruce Springsteen and Jeff Buckley, among others.

Even the flaws in Harper’s set produced a refreshing, rare glimpse into the musician’s process. On several occasions, he picked up a guitar only to find it not quite tuned to his liking. While the crowd may have seen more of Harper’s technician than they cared for, it did paint the picture of a perfectionist who was completely in charge of his own show. This wasn’t exactly the over-produced, staged shows of Britney Spears or The Black Eyed Peas.

Saturday night wasn’t Harper’s first time playing Massey Hall, and he showed a high level of comfort and ease within his cozy surroundings. At many points throughout the night, he enhanced the close-knit feel of the show by stepping away from the mic and singing directly to the crowd, putting the “acoustic” into a show that was billed as “an acoustic evening with Ben Harper.”

In the end, Saturday’s show represented a night for true music lovers — a skilled, multi-faceted musician playing in front of knowledgeable, appreciative fans at a historic, intimate venue.

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

Erica Godfrey’s brainchild raises millions for Baycrest

Erica Godfrey’s brainchild raises millions for Baycrest

Godfrey sits on the board at Baycrest Health Sciences and came up with the idea for the Brain Project fundraiser after she was inspired by New York’s Fabergé Big Egg Hunt in 2014 — similar to Mel Lastman’s Moose in the City. It was launched for the second year at Nathan Phillips Square in July and consists of 100 large-scale sculptures of the human brain, designed by a multitude of artists, scattered across the city.
Posted 3 hours ago
Outdoor flick fest features Born Ruffians rocker making film debut

Outdoor flick fest features Born Ruffians rocker making film debut

Luke Lalonde, lead singer of Canadian indie band the Born Ruffians, can now count acting as one of his many talents. Lalonde stars in the new movie Sundowners and will be performing prior to a screening of the film on Aug. 29 as part of Toronto’s Open Roof Festival.
Posted 4 hours ago
Work Out with Monika: Monika learns to play bike  polo, a sport where women rule

Work Out with Monika: Monika learns to play bike polo, a sport where women rule

Polo on bicycles has been around for more than 100 years. Hard court bike polo (on cement) gained popularity around 2007 as a pastime for bicycle messengers in Seattle between deliveries. Alex Lyon from Toronto Bike Polo taught me in the ins and outs of the hard court version on the hockey rink at Dufferin Grove Park.
Posted 4 hours ago
McKenzie House a rare historical gem in rapidly developing North York

McKenzie House a rare historical gem in rapidly developing North York

McKenzie House was built in 1913, by John and Eva McKenzie. The property was once a 144-acre farm owned by Phillip McKenzie that stretched from Yonge Street to Bayview Avenue, and from Norton Avenue to Parkview Avenue.
Posted 1 day ago
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module