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Concert

Who are Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals?

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals hit the State Theatre Stage this August! But who exactly are these Innocent Criminals, and what crimes have they performed? 

The group’s front man is Ben Harper. Harper was practically raised in his grandparents’ music store, planting the seeds of folk and blues music in his brain. He began playing the guitar at age 9 and was performing by age 12. Harper then spent his early career touring and recording with many bands around the world. He recorded his first studio album in 1994 at age 25. He plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, and sings lead vocals. Harper has won three Grammy® Awards: Best Pop Instrumental Performance (2005), Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album (2005), and Best Blues Album (2014).  He has released 13 studio albums in total, appearing with many different associated acts. One of his best known associated acts, however, is the group The Innocent Criminals.  

The Innocent Criminals is one of the first groups Harper played with. These Criminals include: Juan Nelson on bass, Leon Mobley on percussion, Oliver Charles on drums, Jason Yates on electric piano, acoustic/electric guitar, and percussion, and Jason Mozersky on lead guitar. Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals recorded together as a group from 1999 through 2007. They took a hiatus in 2007 when Harper was recording solo or with some of his other bands. After almost a decade apart, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals reunited to release the album Call It What It Is in 2016. "Playing with the Innocent Criminals again is like riding a bike," said Charles, "but that bike has gotten tons of upgrades and modifications since the last time. There was a feeling I had missed for so long that you can only get from playing together."

Together the band has three studio albums released: Burn To Shine (1999), Lifeline (2009), and Call It What It Is (2016). They incorporate Harper’s specific style, a combination of blues, soul, funk, reggae, and rock genres, with each musician’s different musical ideas and personalities. “Each member brings a wealth of knowledge and different styles of music,” said Nelson. “What makes us unique is that we come from different places musically and we seem to complement each other because of the different styles that we play."

Harper himself agrees with the rest of his band members about the group’s reunion album. “I really feel like the sky is the limit with the Innocent Criminals today,” he said. It’s safe to say that these criminals are only guilty of one crime: capturing audiences with their incredible soulful and funk-driven music. Also take a listen to our interview with the opener of the show Tom Freund! Check out him and  Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals at State Theatre New Jersey on August 25 at 8pm!  

By Alexandra Tarnowski

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