Nick Harper, live at Leeds

In short: Insane guitar killer unleashes his fury with six strings. Must be seen to be believed.

Photo of Nick Harper, live at Leeds, 10th May 2007

★★★★★ It seems at the moment all I do is work, with occasional bits of sleep thrown in. However last night was A Night Out, and it truly deserves the capitals because I went to see Nick Harper, one of my favourite musicians, at the New Roscoe. For those that don’t know of Nick, he’s the son of the famous Roy Harper, but don’t think there’s any kind of reflected glory stuff going on, as Nick is one of the undiscovered musical geniuses of this country, if not the entire world. Big words, but he deserves them.

You see, Nick transcends the acoustic singer-songwriter label placed on him, not just with searching and emotionally-charged songs, nor awe-inspiring technique, nor even a stage presence that makes you feel as though you have a deep connection with his music. He has a raw, undiluted and passionate energy that unleashes itself when he stands on stage with his guitar. In essence there is a war being waged inside his head between the “guitar virtuoso” side of him and the “insane guitar killer” side. If last night is anything to go by, the insane side is winning.

One of his party tricks was performed twice last night. As often happens to guitarists, Nick had a couple of strings break. But rather than wait until the end of the song, make a joke about it and restring, he just keeps singing. A pack of strings came out of his back pocket and, still singing the song, he restrung his guitar, tuned the string and started playing accompanied by cheers and applause. The second time he had to go backstage to get a new one (it was a D, if you’re interested) but carried on playing thanks to the wonders of wireless. That got even louder acclamation when he’d restrung and started playing again.

He played a good selection of his songs, and a fair smattering of other peoples work as well. The ever-popular “Universe Song” by Monty Python went down a treat, as did his usual mash-up of “Whole Lotta Lovin'” and “Guitar Man”. During one of his extended guitar sequences he even touched on “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue, and got the crowd singing the “nar-nar-nar” bit while he improvised melodies over the top. Fantastic.

But it’s his stage presence, his warmth and engaging personality that makes a Nick Harper gig so special. Between reminiscences about his family, thoughts about his forthcoming trip up Everest, and potshots at politicians (his impromptu version of “Golden Brown” in honour of our new Prime Minister was hilarious) everyone in the audience felt they got to know him better. Maybe you wouldn’t have felt that you were the only person in the room, but you would definitely have felt you were in a special group of close friends having a private concert with Nick. And there are some pictures in a new Gigs category of the Gallery for you to enjoy.

The review of this event was created on May 11, 2007 by Chris Taylor and is marked up using hReview. Visit Nick Harpers website for more details of his touring schedule.