As with “Gigantic,” the in-depth documentary on the musical career of They Might Be Giants, I have been faced with another film focusing on a musical talent of which I have heard much about, but have actually heard very little of the music. In this case, the case of Ben Harper, I had heard none of the man’s tunes before viewing this film. And now that the end credits for “Pleasure and Pain” have rolled, I can say that Mr. Harper has more musical talent than all of the current top 20 musical artists combined. Unfortunately, he comes with the same goofy rock star ego as well.
“Pleasure and Pain” documents a nine-month tour with Ben Harper and his band. Through the various onstage performances and the especially moving song he performs with his mother, I’ve come to recognize Ben Harper as a major musical talent, who can play blues, funk, folk, rock and soul all in one evening’s performance with nary a seam showing through. Harper blends these genres of music and creates a sounds that is all his own. Now I know what all the hub-bub is about, with Ben’s success seeing him playing to crowds as big as 20,000 heads with very little radio airplay and no music video exposure.
Too bad that just when I have come to appreciate Ben Harper’s music, I’ve also come to see him as just another bag of hot air. You see, Ben thinks that he can possibly change the world with his music. (Insert big, sloppy raspberry here.)
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE music and I can hardly do anything without it playing in the background. Music is ENTERTAINMENT that can inspire, aid us through tough times, mark certain moments in our lives, put more thrust in our butts when we’re screwin’ and even raise money at benefit concerts. But it turns my stomach when I hear that a musician takes himself so seriously that he thinks can change the world and save our lives with his music. What a bunch of horseshit.
But despite all of my cringing during Harper’s self-important ramblings, “Pleasure and Pain” is still a well-made documentary jam-packed with good music. Ben Harper followers will go nuts for this one.