JQ's back from Iraq, healthy and out of his fucking mind. These are all good things. He was out in LA for a few days and while we were driving home from the madness of the most attended baseball game in history at the Coliseum (Sox-Dodgers) we passed by the Wiltern and Eddie's name was in black beaming down Wilshire. I told him about the Ten Club feeding frenzy, the same thing at Ticketmaster and then let him know that as a student I'm not in a spot to start dropping StubHub prices for a gig. Even if it is a rare solo gig from the frontman of my favorite band. Fast forward past some empty bottles of wine, crushed cases of beer and obscene storytelling that went each night into the next morning and JQ was off to LAX and back into the abyss of out-processing the Army. The next day a package arrives in the mail addressed to my fiancee and underneath are the three magic words: "Get Hot Time". Inside? Two tickets to Eddie's second night at the Wiltern. These are my friends. What more can I say? I call JQ and get this response: "You didn't think I was gonna get you a fucking toaster for your wedding, did you?"
He was still in his lab coat then. His guests retired off stage. The lights dimmed and Eddie leaned down into a suitcase and began howling into one of the mics. He set a loop, then grabbed another mic and began belting an accompanying vocal track. I was frozen there, in the back row of the Wiltern completely fucking mesmerized. I haven't heard "Arc" in several years. He took his time, and it might be the memory of the whole thing fucking with me...but I think we witnessed him twisting his vocal chords for a good four or five minutes. The voice of a generation. The voice of my youth. The memories of a dozen shows from Camden, NJ to Mountain View, CA.
And I would have been good right there.
But, I had the feeling, as he walked to the front of the stage, the curtains closing behind him, and shook hands with members of the crowd ("Arc" still careening about the room on a loop) that something was going on behind him.
When they opened the curtain up Jack Irons was sitting on the drums, Eddie introduced him and noted the next one would be a "big sing-a-long". They kicked off "Last Kiss", with the crowd chanting every word and then I thought...if it ends here, I am very, very good with all of it. Guests have made the rounds on the tour, Jerry Hannan helped out in Berkeley on the first night, while Mike McCready and Sean Penn jammed out on "All Along the Watchtower" on night two at Berkeley. So, we score some Jack Irons on drums and to be honest, I'm fucking overwhelmed.
But no one moves. Eddie remains seated, Irons exits stage right. Eddie starts talking about how lucky he feels to know some of the people he knows and he's not sure if these people are "smart because they are talented, or talented because they are smart". And all of the sneaking suspicions I had leading up to the show start to unravel. He has to be talking about Ben. He hasn't played "No More" yet, and Ben helps him out with the same track on the Body of War soundtrack, courtesy of PJ's Lolla performance last year. And. And. And. "I'd like to welcome to the stage Mr. Ben Harper".
Out of my fucking mind.
I'm in the last row at the Wiltern going completely fucking apeshit as my lady is jumping up and down in the same frenetic fashion. Ben dealt some crushing blows last year at Bonnaroo: SuperJam with John Paul Jones & ?uestlove, bringing out Ziggy for "Get Up, Stand Up" and then tearing through "Dazed and Confused" with Jones again during his own set. And here he is. Sauntering out with a lab coat of his own. Taking a seat and giving Eddie an unbelievable vocal accompaniment during "No More". I can barely take it.
And if you thought they were done there. You're wrong. A backdrop is revealed with a beautiful sunset and the entire gang comes back for "Hard Sun" as Eddie fired up a recording of the studio version and added violent riffs on his guitar while bouncing around the stage in an epic little sing-a-long that included two pipes on both sides of the stage gushing dry ice.
Eddie thanks the crowd and still the set isn't going anywhere. It's just getting adjusted by more people in lab coats. Two seats. A drumset. Eddie is bouncing around in his famous half-buzzed-possibly-cocked-bebop, towards the corner, then back to the mic. "I'd like to re-introduce Mr. Ben Harper and Mr. Jack Irons. One more." Hell yes.
Ben walks out with the Weissenborn and I am all kinds of ballistic because whatever is coming he's got the fucking Weissenborn...Eddie rips into the opening bars of "All Along the Watchtower" acoustic and as I'm tearing up, Ben hovers in gently with the lead and I swear...I swear...I'm lost...they repeat "two riders were approaching..." a number of times just to get enough opportunity to let Ben crush us...and then all together "the wind began to howl..."
"Walking the Cow" (Daniel Johnson)
"Around the Bend"
"I Am Mine"
"Thumbing My Way"
"Man of the Hour"
"Millworker" (James Taylor)
"You´ve Got to Hide Your Love Away" (Beatles)
"Picture in a Frame" (Tom Waits)
"Trouble" (Cat Stevens)
"Happy Birthday" for his Grandmother Margaret
"Society" (Jerry Hannan; w. Liam Finn)
"Throw Your Arms Around Me" (Marc Seymour; w. Liam Finn)
"Last Kiss" (Wayne Cochran; w. Jack Irons)
"No More" (w. Ben Harper)
"Hard Sun" (Gordon Peterson; w. Ben Harper, Jack Irons, Eliza-Jane Barnes & Liam Finn)
"All Along The Watchtower" (Bob Dylan; w. Ben Harper & Jack Irons)