Thursday, November 18, 2010


Last night I went to the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Fistful Of Mercy. I've written about them before: they are a supergroup that features Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison. They also feature violinist Jessy Greene. Longtime No Expiration readers know that I'm a huge fan of Ben's, but it was interesting to see him in this different context: he wasn't the bandleader, he was one of three singer/songwriters. Actually, this was my second time seeing them: I had filmed an in-studio performance with them at my day job a few weeks ago (see below).

Radio performances are cool.  But there's nothing that compares with a group playing in front of an audience, and add the mojo of the Apollo to the mix, and you have everything you need for a great show. Fistful definitely delivered on that! They played mostly songs from their recently released debut album, As I Call You Down, including my two favorite songs "Things Go 'Round" and "Father's Son." The highlight of the show, for me, may have been their cover of PJ Harvey's "To Bring You My Love." That was a trip for me, since (a) it is the title track of one of my favorite albums, and (b), I saw Ben and The Innocent Criminals open for PJ at the Beacon Theater when she was touring for the album of the same name. Fistful's cover really knocked me out.  I also loved their cover of Bob Dylan's "Buckets Of Rain" (from Blood On The Tracks).  I don't want to write much about Dhani's resemblence to his dad, but watching him sing a song by his dad's good friend and bandmate gave me chills.  I also loved their cover of The Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes," maybe Lou Reed's finest moment. They did one of Ben's songs, "Please Me Like You Want To" and also the one Joseph Arthur song that I really know, "In The Sun."

Maybe even better than those songs was the album's closer, which ended the show, "With Whom You Belong."  It was a super powerful moment, they unplugged their instruments and went to the edge of the stage, and played them unamplified. The song isn't a hit, but the words are easy enough to remember, and everyone in the audience sang along.  It was really powerful and also really fun. I think this is what they will close their shows with in twenty years.  They seemed to enjoy performing together, I bet they'll be doing Fistful off and on for a long time.  Here's hoping they do.

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