Nick Harper

Live Review | The Duchess, York | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Nick Harper has a space all his own and those who attend his gigs enter that space at their peril. Harperspace is after all, despite its intergalactic connotations and new hippie sensibility, the charismatic ether surrounding a vibrant musician who simply allows music to take over his entire being. A great singer with an astonishing vocal range as well as virtuoso guitar player, who has clearly explored all possibilities, not only in between the frets but also around the headstock area as well. There’s more peg activity going on up there than at a gypsy convention and there appears to be no dusty end to Harper’s Lowden. Although famed for his use of the sampling and looping box of tricks, Nick kept his toys to a minimum tonight as he trawled through his back catalogue with songs from most of his albums including “Crazy Boy” from Seed, “Blood Song” and “Imaginary Friend” from Blood Songs, a couple from Smithereens “Two Way Thing” and “In Our Time” and a whole bunch from his fifth and arguably his best album Harperspace including the frantic “Karmageddon”, the autobiographical “Aeroplane”, a song about how Roy would swing the lad around by the ankles in earlier days and the soulful “She Rules My World”, which almost evokes the vocal range of another famous rock-sprog of the Buckley variety. Unlike Jeff Buckley though, who clearly had contempt for the father who abandoned him, Nick Harper has maintained a close relationship with his dad and it’s actually encouraging to hear him speak so reverently about him. He has a great appreciation of Roy both as a dad and as a musician, as well as the source of all his genetic weirdness it has to be said. If you listen to some of Roy’s early albums then you will know it was unavoidable. Coincidentally, Buckley’s “Grace” was part of a lively medley, which also included the old Led Zeppelin stomper “Four Sticks”, both popping up in the middle of “Love Is Music”, Harper’s regular string-breaking showpiece, which once again was rewarded by frantic applause from an appreciating audience of Harperspace cadets. Of the newer material, “Blue Sky Thinking” stands out as a Harper masterpiece with its trance-like fluid guitar motif that wouldn’t be out of place on any Wyndam Hill collection. The gig seemed to run over as often is the case with Harper. Once you get into that kind of a groove it’s hard to know exactly when to stop and although you always come away with well over your money’s worth of entertainment and Harperspaced-out experience, there’s always the slight disappointment of not having heard your particular favourites. Tonight it was “The Verse That Time Forgot” and “100 Things” that could’ve easily substituted ten minutes of “Love Is Music” or the awfully bawdy Zappa toon “Titties and Beer”. But there’s always a next time eh?