You need a pretty damned good reason to drive all the way to the miserable, featureless Hampshire town of Aldershot to spend a Saturday evening. Fortunately we had one, an excellent one; a musical soiree with Nick Harper (son of Roy) again, the penultimate gig of his spring tour. As a regular reader of my blogs you already know how much I rate this geezer’s work. He’s extraordinary. Read more about what I’ve said about him here, here, here and here.
Aldershot’s West End Arts Centre was sold out, which was great news for Nick – perhaps people are at last beginning to cotton on to this genius musician? But the venue was incredibly stuffy and the seating arrangements were shite. Nick bimbled on the stage looking tired, sweaty and, frankly, quite stoned. Not that such chemical rearrangement of his braincell has ever hampered his performance before, you understand.
After a month of non-stop touring, Nick’s voice began tired and scratchy, but he took no prisoners with it and still tried to force out the songs with as much passion and expression as he does normally. I’m not sure Nick is able to ever compromise on his music. Thankfully, within three songs his voice was warmed up and he could perform his usual vocal acrobatics – his range really is astonishing. No one should be able to sing AND play as well as he does.
In fact, allow me to digress for a moment. As I had a cuppa and a piece of toast this morning I turned the telly on to BBC Breakfast News. Dermot Murghnagnahanahan was interviewing another singer, Enrique Iglesias, son of Julio, and marvelling at his record sales – 40 million copies! They showed an extract from his latest pop video. Unable to sing, his producers had had to use effects on his expressionless, weak, wobbly, tonefree voice. The song itself was a mainstream-pop-by-numbers, power-ballad milksop. I almost threw up! And yet this man has universal fame and fortune. Nick has more talent in his toenail clippings than this slug.
Nick performs a windmill
Anyway back to Nick. Oooh! He’s ace! He plays such wonderful, human, expressive songs but how he is categorised as ‘folk’ I have yet to fully understand. Tarred with his father’s brush perhaps? Nick plays a curious, exciting, emotional and sweet combination of classical guitar and acoustic ‘heavy metal’, wrapped up in the guise of an unassuming but very witty 42-year-old Englishman.
Nick hits his guitar damned hard and frequently breaks strings. On Saturday he took his party trick of changing broken strings mid-song to new, and for me as yet unseen, heights of madness. One of the wound strings at the top of his guitar broke and as he continued singing attempted to remove the broken string with his foot:
It simply has to be seen to be believed.
His new album, Miracles for beginners is released today and includes the very beautiful song ‘Blue sky thinking’, which he is selling as a download for a cancer charity, it costs 79p. Just do it. Please. Do it for Nick, do it for my friend Bec who died of cancer in January and do it for yourself.
Photos: Moth Clark