Ben Harper makes raucous return to Montreux fest

Thu Jul 8, 2010 11:00am EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - Ben Harper and Relentless 7 brought raucous Led Zeppelin-style rock 'n roll to the Montreux Jazz Festival, including new tracks off their album "Feel Love" due to be released early next year.

A tearful Regina Spektor kicked off the Wednesday night show, paying tribute to her late cellist Daniel Cho who festival sources said had drowned in Lake Geneva a day before. A spotlight shone on his empty chair and cello on the stage during the performance by the Russian-born American singer and pianist.

"They decided to go on with the show and their tour," a source close to the festival told Reuters.

The American Grammy Award winner Harper opened on acoustic guitar with "Diamonds on the Inside" for his first appearance since 1999 at the 44th annual Swiss event, one of Europe's most prestigious summer festivals.

"I first played at the Montreux Jazz Festival with R.E.M. This is now officially one of my favorite rooms to make music in," Harper told the crowd at Auditorium Stravinski on the shore of Lake Geneva, which offers a stunning view of the Swiss Alps.

Harper swiftly moved to electric guitar for "Give Till It's Gone," from the upcoming album he said was due in March 2011.

During much of the amped-up, three-hour concert -- that included renditions of "Red House" by Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" -- he played on an electric lap slide guitar.

"One of the thrills and challenges being center stage is people are looking to you for cues. In a sense though, when I play I am way deep inside," he said after a slight miscue.   Continued...

<p>Ben Harper &amp; Relentless 7 perform during the Virgin Music Festival at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto August 29, 2009. Picture taken August 29, 2009. REUTERS/Jill Kitchener</p>