Live From Mars, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals Virgin

Paul Wong
Catch Staind tonight as they roll through EMU on the “Wake the Fuck Up” tour, along with Godsmack, Cold and Systematic.<br><br>Courtesy of Elektra

Jam funk band the Innocent Criminals and their hippie revivalist frontman Ben Harper dropped a double disc set onto record store shelves and college kids began nicking them off the shelves immediately. Critical darling, and college kid alterna-blues fave Harper and Co. take the stage at the Mars to a huge crowd.

Harper and the Criminals” cruise through a massive set the likes of which DMB and Phish would surely envy. The 25-song two-disc eruption of Harper-penned tunes and a few surprises for trainspotters is recorded well, and crowd noise is kept at a minimum. Breaking out Gaye”s “Sexual Healing” to a transfixed crowd just four songs into the set, Harper and friends aim to please the sure-capacity Mars crowd. Seven songs into the set, Harper pulls out radio-slick mainstream crossover “Steal My Kisses,” a song he performed live on Leno to a frantic crowd. The reggae-inspired tune was met to a frenzied response on the CD as well. It pays to write hits.

Harper concludes the first disc with a cover of Led Zeppelin”s “Whole Lotta Love” given the Criminal-style makeover. The second disc continues through “Waiting on an Angel” and “Roses from my Friends,” and eventually finds itself somewhere in a Dick Ashcroft song which seems ominously out of place and reminds the crowd “The Drugs Don”t Work.”

Harper”s live set two-disc release is flying off the shelves as quick as “Steal My Kisses” flew up the charts. However, there is nothing spectacular on this disc, and it may be better to save the $20 towards a Ben Harper concert at least at the concert you”ll probably get a contact high.

Grade: C

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