Relentless 7 | 12.03.08 | California

By: Ian Feder

Relentless 7 :: 12.03.08 :: Belly Up Tavern :: Solano Beach, CA

Ben Harper by Melissa Nicholson
The highly-anticipated concert at the Belly Up Tavern by Relentless 7 started out with a scalper-deterring "will call only" ticket process, as will every show on this tour. The band, which features guitarist-singer Ben Harper, Jason Mozersky (guitar), Jesse Ingalls (bass) and Jordan Richardson (drums) is playing small club shows, the size of which superstar Harper hasn't played in a very long time.

Upon entering the venue, the excitement of the first ever headlining Relentless 7 show was vibrating through the air (the band debuted on October, 29 in Youngstown, Ohio as part of the Beastie Boys-led "Get Out the Vote" benefit, see a sweet clip below). As the club quickly filled up, the opening act, Grace Woodroofe, took the stage and appeared to be quite the cute, nervous little girl. Her beautifully soft yet sultry Australian accented voice and basic acoustic guitar playing served as nice background music as most of the crowd chatted and eagerly awaited the headliner.

As Relentless 7 walked onstage, the aura was decidedly different from the most recent Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals tour, where they dressed in suits and played to a sit down crowd. The band members were dressed very casually with Harper in cargo pants and a denim shirt and the rest of the band in jeans and t-shirts, which made one realize this was going to be more of a rock & roll show. With only a few songs available from the band's website, including a fantastic cover of Led Zeppelin "Good Times, Bad Times," Prince's "Purple Rain" and an original called "Serve Your Soul," which is almost 10-minutes long with a rocking jam in the middle, the expected sound of the band was loud, bluesy and very rock & roll.

Jordan Richardson
From the first note, the band did not disappoint those expectations. Relentless 7 started out with an ear piercing loudness that foreshadowed what the rest of the night had in store. I thought is was interesting when the sound tech offered the front row people ear plugs, as I've never seen anything like that before, but within a minute of the start of the show it was clear that those who accepted were happy they did.

The first few songs were a little bit jarring for much of the crowd, who seemed to be mostly seasoned Harper fans and were not quite sure of what they were getting themselves into. The combination of Harper's incendiary slide guitar and Mozersky's heavy, deep and bluesy guitar playing was a definite contrast to the general sound and vibe of The Innocent Criminals. This was incredibly evident when early on, Relentless 7 covered Harper's "Better Way." It sounded harder and faster, and it was obvious that Harper was fighting some kind of cold/flu because his voice was particularly raspy to the point of cracking twice during the prolonged notes. In addition to the raspiness, the mix was far too soft all night on Harper's vocals. That might have been intentional to take focus away from his stressed voice, however, due to the incredibly loud amplification of the guitars it was often difficult to hear his voice, let alone make out the words of these largely unfamiliar new songs.

It wasn't until six songs into the set that the band truly got into a groove. Their heavy original "Keep It Together" was the turning point in this show, where it seemed that the old school Harper fans opened their minds and ears to a new direction of his music and the band seemed to be gelling quite nicely. Richardson on drums made this song truly come alive as his tight rolls and incredibly animated personality shined through the rest of the band. The entire venue seemed to be emulating his enormous smile and energetic state of mind as dancing kick started while he and Mozersky fed off one another and the utter enjoyment of the whole band flowed through the room.

Ben Harper by Melissa Nicholson
This energy continued the rest of the night, but was captured best by another original, "Boots Like These," which seemed to be like Harper's own spin on "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," and turned out to be a crowd pleaser. During this number, Harper jumped and danced all over the stage, even up on the drum platform while holding a tambourine and maracas.

After a short encore break, the band returned and played a soft original to get things started, which was an interesting choice after the heavy, fast pace of the rest of the show. However, this was short lived as Relentless 7 quickly moved into a crowd sing-a-long to Queen and Bowie's "Under Pressure," which got the energy flowing in the room again and easily segued into "Serve Your Soul" to end the night. After the rocking version that was streaming on the band's website, the live version had a lot to live up to and it met every expectation, especially during Harper's fervent slide guitar improvisation. However, "Keep it Together" may have been a better choice to end on, as "Serve Your Soul" seemed to need something after it and left the crowd longing for a more conclusive ending.

Relentless 7 are a prime example of a deep blues, hard rock band with an occasional softer edge brought on by Harper's soothing, soulful voice. The band will likely continue to gel as they get more stage time together, and this bodes well for a long lived, high energy act, fueled by Harper's fame, Mozersky's incendiary guitar licks and Richardson's incredibly animated personality on drums. If this is the future of Ben Harper, then Relentless 7 will attract a number of longtime Harper fans, but will also recruit a fan base who appreciates this heavier sound reminiscent of early Led Zeppelin and the harder songs of The Innocent Criminals.

Relentless 7 are on tour now, dates available here.

Relentless 7 "Keep It Together" - 10/29 Youngstown, Ohio

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[Published on: 12/5/08]

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Comments

Bryan24 Fri 12/5/2008 04:35PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/5/2008 04:37PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Chaloupka

That clip is pretty rockin! Would be cool to see these cats.

King Rhino starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/5/2008 04:39PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Um, bryan24?

That's Michael Franti.

Not Ben Harper.

You just pwn'd yourself.

HA!!!

Roswellznutsack Fri 12/5/2008 06:19PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Ugh!

I left early! It was Ben with 3 generic white dudes who all looked the same , with no stage presence whatsoever. The songs were boring. No hook, no real out and out rockers, just bland.

And I love me some Ben and the ICs but Ill pass on this.

Bryan24 Fri 12/5/2008 07:10PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Bryan24

so true. how much of a jackass do i look like now. haha.

bertolet Fri 12/5/2008 09:42PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

bertolet

"Ugh! I left early! It was Ben with 3 generic white dudes who all looked the same , with no stage presence whatsoever."

Ugh. You left a show you paid for early because the band members were white and had no stage presence.

johnnunn Sat 12/6/2008 06:32AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Hm.. I believe that is what he said.. nice double quote. Show sucked = left early, not that hard to understand

King Rhino starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/6/2008 06:55AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

That's ok, Bryan .... By the way .... HOW YOU FEELIN'??!!??!!????

redhed starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/6/2008 07:39AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

redhed

sounds kinda cool but i'm surprised to hear people say the show sucked and they left early

Road To Shambala Sat 12/6/2008 10:37AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Road To Shambala

Its definitelly no Innocent Criminals.

HoodooVoodoo starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/6/2008 11:33AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

HoodooVoodoo

I believe that this band consists of Ben Harper and the white dudes from Hootie & the Blowfish

dedhed6111 Sat 12/6/2008 12:24PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

dedhed6111

i guess they had to find a new band now that hootie is a country singer

irtimed starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/6/2008 06:43PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

irtimed

"it was obvious that Harper was fighting some kind of cold/flu because his voice was particularly raspy to the point of cracking twice during the prolonged notes"

I think he always does that for one verse in that song.

"I left early! It was Ben with 3 generic white dudes who all looked the same , with no stage presence whatsoever. The songs were boring. No hook, no real out and out rockers, just bland."

no hook.... wow. what do you just listen to the radio all the time? usually the best songs have no hook. you must be a flaming lips fan, because all they are is a bunch of simple songs with hooks and confetti.Derek Trucks doesn't really have "stage presence" and he is one of the best musicians out their today.

even though I like Ben's mellow stuff, I'm pumped to see loud rockin' Ben.

pornofunk starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/6/2008 07:41PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

pornofunk

love me some ben

rainydaywomen420 Sun 12/7/2008 12:29AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

rainydaywomen420

really like ben harper, his early stuff is real good. What the fuck happened to the innocent criminals mannn??

daveapaug starstar Sun 12/7/2008 08:44AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

daveapaug

Why are most of the reviewers on this site complete morons. Here is a band playing their first headlining show, and from what the reviewer tells me, might be their second show; and the person writing the review has the nerve to start suggesting different songs. And I quote: "However, "Keep it Together" may have been a better choice to end on, as "Serve Your Soul" seemed to need something after it and left the crowd longing for a more conclusive ending." I think Ben Harper is successful enough to write the setlists for his band. The band has played how many shows? Get over yourself.

CoreyBauer Sun 12/7/2008 11:50AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

that sh** sounds horrible... the video at least

1974morey Sun 12/7/2008 12:54PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

1974morey

Ben needs to bring the Innocent Criminals back and stop fucking around with this sub-standard band.

BGA1 starstarstarstarstar Sun 12/7/2008 01:05PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I think Monday at the Independent is going ROCK!! Regardless of what anyone might say. It's a new band, but it's still Ben Harper. Either way the wife and I will have a great time nonetheless.

PickinKind starstarstarstarstar Sun 12/7/2008 02:02PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

PickinKind

i think it would kick ass if he toured with the innocent criminals again but these dudes sound like they could be a fun time. feelin the energy from that shitty quality video but thats only one song, id like to see what else they can do and try my best not to compare them to the criminals.

Harmonium Sun 12/7/2008 03:34PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Harmonium

gee, daveapaug. i'm surprised rolling stone hasn't called you up for an editor position yet. save your soapbox for phantasy tour.

tron420 star Sun 12/7/2008 03:42PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

tron420

I was at this show and quite honestly, i didn't really like it that much. First of all, it all starts out with my bro totally dropping the ball with something i needed to pick up, so i was already feeling like picking a fight. Then, when i get to the theatre i run into my ex with her new boyfriend... my best bud!!! I lose it, so i punch him in the kisser and he goes down like a ton of bricks. Long story short- I spend 4 days in jail and may have to go to back. Just kidding, none of this is true, i've never even seen ben harper before. I listen to big band. cheers!!!

MFF0RD6 starstarstarstar Sun 12/7/2008 05:22PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

MFF0RD6

spaceland show the next night really kicked ass. the mint, not quite as much...but still solid. these guys sound good together, imo.

weekapaung starstarstarstarstar Mon 12/8/2008 10:20AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

These guys are not the Innocent Criminals, so for everyone who went to the shows expecting to hear Ben's old songs, get off your high horse and open your mind and ears a little bit to some rocking new tunes. The energy and emotion the flowed through these preformances was outstanding. The Spaceland show was far superior to the Belly Up show, but both rocked and were fun. People shouldn't go see a new band and expect them to be the same as an old band that one of the members was in. These guys could really hit it big if they get the right exposure and people don't go to their shows expecting to hear Steal My Kisses and Burn One Down.

mahgeetah starstarstar Mon 12/8/2008 11:39AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

mahgeetah

I for one am much more interested in hearing a louder Ben sound. The tracks on the R7 website sounded great. But the show in Santa Cruz last night sucked. After waiting an hour (on a Sunday nite) after the opener finished, the rock star finally came out and played...about 65 minutes of music. That's it. Some of the tracks sounded really good...but most songs were not very tight. Jordan Richardson's Dana Carvey impersonations on the drums got a little annoying after a while too. Guess I should feel priviliged to see Ben in such a relatively small environment, but this is kind of half-ass. It'd also be nice if the Catalyst didn't suck so bad. Reminds me of my high school locker room. Seen over 20 shows there and it always seems to get worse.

walthers star Mon 12/8/2008 12:12PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I could not agree with you more Mahgeetah. I have been waiting to hear something new from Ben for a while and was really excited for this show. After attempting to stay awake through the very boring opener, I finally got frustrated and tired of waiting and left before they even came on. With a three hour drive home on a Sunday night I am glad I did seeing how I have read a few times that the show was just over an hour. The Catalyst is a pretty lame venue to say the least but I figured it would be worthwhile to go since it was Ben Harper. Too bad they all could not get their shit straight and start on time.

Parsonsgoggles Tue 12/9/2008 07:55AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Parsonsgoggles

After seeing the Independent show last night I would bet large sums of money this project does not move forward after these few remaining shows. Somethings wrong when I leave a show like this and think to myself that the bass player really kicked ass.