July 8, 2010 / 3:03 PM / in 7 years

Ben Harper makes raucous return to Montreux fest

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.

<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>

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.

With Texans Jason Mozersky on guitar, Jesse Ingalls on bass and Jordan Richardson on drums, the four-man band formed in 2008 also performed “Broken,” “Skin Thin” and “Rock & Roll is Free” from the new album.

They also offered staples from their first album, “White Lies for Dark Times” including “Number with No Name.”

Harper changed tack for an extended encore, appearing alone on stage for several solos on acoustic guitar, including “Lonely Day” and “Waiting on an Angel.”

Edtiting by Paul Casciato

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