Fistful of Mercy is Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur, and Dhani Harrison
The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever
November 13, 2010
"Who the fuck is Fistful of Mercy?" This was a question I was asked by a friend a few weeks ago, before this "supergroup" even had a MySpace page. Yet they had already recorded an album – released on October 5, As I Call You Down was the first public glimpse into the project that has seemingly been shrouded in secrecy.
Not even weeks after the friend posed his expletive-riddled question, Fistful of Mercy was appearing on Conan’s show in his first week back and had already embarked on a short tour of small club gigs that was either an effort to support the album or to simply give the material a road test. On this night, the ensemble would host a gathering in the quaint but beautifully unique Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever, positioned in a cemetery wherein the likes of Rudolph Valentino and Johnny Ramone have found their final resting place.
The supposition can easily be made that a band boasting members as renowned as Ben Harper, Grammy-nominated Joseph Arthur, and icon George Harrison’s son Dhani, hardly needs press. Operating from an "if you build it, they will come" mentality, the music speaks for itself and the press has come to them. With virtually unparalleled harmonies, one can almost hear the father of "The Sun" in the rare vancancies left between the raspy familiar tenors of Harper and the vast ranges of Arthur.
Stripped of any unnatural intstrumentation, the band approached the stage in Los Angeles from seemingly the same place as they did the album, dressed down and raw. Rattling through all nine of the album’s tracks, the band would have been remiss if they did not incorporate material from previous musical journeys. So they did with Harper’s "Please Me Like You Want To" and Arthur’s "In the Sun," the song that everybody knows but may not know from whom it came. For good measure, Harrison made his way to a grand piano for the insightfully depressing number "Another John Doe," a song from his primary project, thenewno2.
Although their were no musical holes, The Jayhawks’ Jessy Greene intermittently provided the proverbial caulk throughout the evening with long, trance-like rides on violin. This, along with the female presence that came with, only added to the diversity of sound and persona.
On its whole, the night provided testament to collaboration in a manner that has truly not been seen since Monsters of Folk came on the scene. The beauty is found in the back seat, a place that these remarkable talents seem to have no problem taking. Their individual styles have never blurted anything egotistical and this shone brightly in the City of Angels.
I Don’t Want to Waste Your Time, In Vain or True, As I Call You Down, Buckets of Rain (Bob Dylan), 30 Bones, Fistful of Mercy, Please Me Like You Want To (Harper), Restore Me, In the Sun (Joseph Arthur), Another John Doe (thenewno2), Things Go ‘Round, Father’s Son
Pale Blue Eyes (The Velvet Underground), With Whom You Belong
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