Grace Woodroofe opened for Ben Harper at the Tabernacle as part of a six-fingered handful of dates supporting her recent Always Want release. Her energetic smile and genuine appreciation won over many of Harper’s fan. Those who hadn’t heard of her before should check out her latest single. “Bear,” which has been described as a tough love anthem that finds Grace on the hunt. Woodroofe’s pleasant demeanor betrays her because watching her onstage one would think she fronts a metal band. She tosses her hair ecstatically in front of her face, and chooses to make statements with her music that recall the mood of PJ Harvey with the spirit of songs like “These Boots are Made for Walking.” She demurely thanked the audience and said, “I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life. Thank you so much.” It just made sense to see such a sweet and talented lady rock into a Joan Jett cover. Woodroofe’s choice to close with “Now I Wanna be Your Dog” confirmed, in my mind, that she is a tough cookie wrapped in a dainty package deserving of Harper’s fans’ attention.
When Harper took the stage the audience immediately connected with his energy. He struck me as an artist who truly loves what he does; his acoustic set connected with the audience’s energy. The lap steel guitar instrumental break and Harper’s back and forth conversation of vocalized oohs with the fans showed off his love. Harper announced to the crowd that it’s “not a matter of whether love worked or did not work, but that you loved” before he played “Masterpiece.” He also serenaded the audience without a mic, completely acoustic, and brought all three levels of fans to their feet with thunderous applause.
During his song, “Glory and Consequence” he honored the twentieth anniversary of Pearl Jam’s Ten by singing “Jeremy” for a few verses, then “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin and Queen’s “Under Pressure.” Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire” was covered in the encore as well. The fans of Ben Harper show up in casual attire; probably less than 30% of the audience wore a band t-shirt to distinguish themselves as a certain type of person. The ambiance felt like a working class family enjoying a Friday night. Those who came early, enjoyed a few drinks while listening to Grace Woodroofe and capped their evening with Harper’s three-hour set, know relaxation.