Ben Harper could have sung the phonebook and last night's packed out crowd at ASB Theatre wouldn't have cared less.
He kept them waiting for nearly an hour and they seemed to relish that time, merely building up to the moment he walked on stage to deliver what they knew he would deliver.
It was, of course, mostly his own songbook he covered instead.
Harper rocked and rolled his way through more than three hours of old stuff, new stuff and other people's stuff, in his very own acoustic showcase.
There was a delicate version of Fool For a Lonesome Train and a haunting take of Pleasure and Pain. Diamonds on the Inside was heart-warming and Excuse Me Mister proved itself a passionate plea.
But it was when he stopped being nice that Harper really sounded great.
His roughed-up take on Number with No Name - complete with steel-lap guitar - was foot-stomping magic.
The howling Please Bleed satisfied the constant cat-cries from the audience, demanding he play it. And the goose bump-inspiring Amen Omen was simply beautiful to behold.
He covered (among others) Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and apologised for playing a new song of his own.
He instructed on the intricacies of the 15-odd instruments he had on stage, and he played the marimba.
But Ben Harper could have done anything he wanted. This is a man who loves Kiwis, and whom Kiwis love back. And this was a crowd who lapped up his words, his song and his passion for music and for performing.
With more 30 songs, it's not a show for the faint-hearted or the kind who need an early night.
But you get the sense that when Harper is on stage, the world almost stops turning for his disciples, and that nothing but hearing those words matters. And last night, those words sounded just like they should have.
Where: ASB Theatre, Auckland
When: November 5
Tickets are still available for Harper's show tonight.
- © Fairfax NZ News