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by katie eldridge

Even Mother Nature's ferocious temper couldn't hinder the spirits of hundreds of concert-goers in Deer Valley. Maybe it had something, or everything, to do with the man on stage. Ben Harper provided his audience with a hearty dose of new music from his latest album "Burn To Shine," along with old favorites from "Fight for Your Mind" and "Welcome to the Cruel World."

If you were there, you probably weren't surprised when the rain unleashed, even before Harper took stage. The Deer Valley Amphitheater was shadowed by dark, ominous clouds for a good half-hour before torrential precipitation came thundering down. And let's not leave out the amazing lightning show leading up to the concert. The weather prompted creativity from the crowd, as many folks McGyvered rain shields out of anything from Mexican blankets to Crazy Creek chairs.

Ben Harper is one of those musicians who speaks to people through his music alone, rather than making clever remarks in between songs. For most fans, that's fine. But someone must have told dear Ben otherwise. Near the end of the show, Harper said, "People say I don't talk enough on stage. So I'm trying to talk more."

At one point someone near the front of the stage shouted out a not-so-in-depth inquiry, "Where'd you get your shirt?" At that moment, much of the crowd recoiled in embarrassment (or at least I did). Harper didn't seem too offended or surprised when he answered, "I got it from a friend."

Harper has said before that he thinks talking too much about music cheapens it. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to cheapen the distinctive sound of Harper's Weissborn guitar. The hollow-neck slide guitar has become his signature. That's one of the reasons Harper rarely stands while performing. This can be a bit of a shock for fans that have only listened to the musician on CD. His lyrics and energy may give one the idea that this musician will be jumping around during his live performances; not so. Ben Harper leaves the dancing to you and me.

A musician like Harper sitting down doesn't add up to a disappointing show. Quite the contrary. Harper played for well over an hour, and even obliged to return to the stage for an encore. One of his final songs was the sultry Marvin Gay tune, "Sexual Healing."

The 31-year-old musician started his career early in life, growing up in California. Now his music seems to be an anthem for his generation, and younger ones as well. Traveling around the world, you're bound to hear a Harper tune somewhere… In the Himalayas even, if you're as lucky as Tracey Hughes. She says she was approaching a bar in the Khumbu region when she heard the sweet tunes of Harper wafting out the door. (Hughes drove to Park City from Snowmass, Colorado to hear her favorite artist; she won't hesitate to tell you that she thinks he's "hot.")

As the crowd dispersed into the darkness following the show, thunder sounded once again reminding everyone the brutal rain wasn't over. Ben Harper was long gone from the stage by that time and would soon be off to do another show, then another. Everyone sprinted through the downpour smiling, screaming, and knowing we had seen a talented, soulful musician entertain. If we're lucky, he'll be back again undeterred by late summer rain.