29 February 2008: Ginger + Eureka Machines – Junktion 7, Nottingham, England, UK

29 February 2008: Ginger + Eureka Machines - Junktion 7, Nottingham, England, UK

The Breakdowns were first on stage but most of their set was missed due to the appeal of Guinness only being sold downstairs. They sounded pretty good and I’d be happy to give them another listen sometime, I can’t say much more than that.

Eureka Machines, fronted by Chris Catalyst, were an unexpected bonus of the night. Having seen Robochrist – and been quite unmoved by the whole thing – I didn’t expect too much from Eureka Machines, however the music turned out to be very good and Catalyst was a genuinely likeable and engaging presence on stage. Dave on guitar #2 provided steady backing and bounced some banter back and forth with Catalyst. So, not only has Catalyst played with some modern-day gods – a.k.a. The Sisters of Mercy and Ginger – it seems he’s also a top bloke. Git.

Helping Ginger out with musical accompaniment was the aforementioned Chris Catalyst and Scott Wiszszkowskilowski (not his actual surname) from the US of States. They opened up with the great instrumental, The Ninns of Mourning, from Ginger’s recent release, Market Harbour. This album took a few weeks to grow on me, but grow it certainly has. I’ve been listening to (and loving) all things Ginger-related for around 15 years and did think that I’d more-or-less worked the guy out. However, this album was in the OK pile until the metaphorical penny dropped and suddenly it all made sense.

As always, an eclectic mix of tunes was thrown into the setlist melting pot, producing a noxious brew of classics, covers, b-sides and everything else in between. The crowd loved it, the only downer on the night being the annoying bunch of fecks who insisted on shout-talking throughout songs. Ginger took this snub remarkably well: “I don’t care what you lot do, you’ve already paid your money and it’s going towards a new kitchen and swimming pool at my place!” He also said it was the most surreal ‘acoustic’ gig he’d ever done, I think mainly due to the extent and randomness of the crowd-banter.

I couldn’t see fully but it appeared that Catalyst was providing some degree of percussion from a floor-mounted drum pad. Scott appeared to be having the time of his life and he certainly is a very talented player. Even so, Ginger will always naturally draw your eye while on stage because he is Mr Charisma and a great musician too.

Occasionally with solo-Ginger offerings I get the feeling that despite it being good, something’s still missing – and, no, I don’t mean the rest of The Wildhearts. Tonight, another penny seemed to drop very early on and I found myself grinning like a loon throughout – and, no, I hadn’t taken anything either. I think I found that missing piece of the jigsaw in my head. Seeing as I thought the guy was a god before, I’m not sure what status I can bestow upon him now.

Yes, this was a slightly unorthodox gig for sure, but yet another great one in the chronicles of The Man. Here is a guy still belting out some great tunes in a totally relaxed and carefree way. He doesn’t care if the night isn’t a perfectly smooth ride, it’s more important to him where the journey ends up.

Ginger’s Setlist (incomplete but being worked on) (plus some random interludes); The Ninns Of Mourning/Inside Out/I Take It He Didn’t Say Yes/You Poor, Poor Bastard/I’m Trying To Eavesdrop (Spot The Speed Freak)/One Love, One Life, One Girl/It Sounds A Bit Like A Train Station In Here/Water (People Will Shout Anything Now Won’t They)/It’s A Room Full Of Hecklers!/There’s Only One Hell/To Love Somebody/The Drunken Lord Of Everything/Jig/I Just Wanted To Hear How Quiet I Could Get/Ten Flaws Down/You’re All Looking At Me/Mother City/Girls Are Better Than Boys/Silly Endings/Dreaming In A/Skychaser High/Geordie In Wonderland/The Man Who Cheated Death/Loveshit/29 x The Pain/Don’t Worry About Me (Audience)/You Are Really F**king Annoying/Bang!/When She Comes/Crazy Little Thing Called Love.Eureka Machines Selist (plus some random interludes); Hello/Eureka/Red Wine Smile/It’s Absolutely Ace To Be Back In Nottingham/Wichita Lineman/I Love This Venue (Oh God, I Feel Like Shit)/The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train/The Story Of My Life/Excuse Me/You’re Rubbish At Clapping Along/Take On Me.

@Jimbob247247

24 February 2008: Nick Harper – Komedia, Brighton, England, UK

The stage was waiting with a single microphone and a small table with a pint of beer on. The punters on a wet Sunday night at Komedia were mostly tucking into their food and chattering. What an eclectic bunch. Had they really all come to see Nick Harper?

Enter Nick, bathed in liquid gas effect ‘smoke’ and white light shining down on him………….

Straight into No Truth Up In The Mountains to rapturous applause from all. Thanks goodness, I had fears that a coachload of people had strayed in by mistake but I was wrong. The word is out that Harperspace is for all.

Nick stated that of course the song was rubbish as he now knew there was truth and more in the mountains and he began to involve the audience in stories of how he participated in a trek to play in the world’s highest gig at base camp on Mount Everest. What has become for him an inspirational trip has achieved much for the LoveHopeStrength Foundation, the cancer charity founded by Mike Peters.

Changing track a tad, he then talked about his childhood antics and the first time he flew high. This was when his dad swung him up and around by his ankles and he recalled the feeling he had on coming down and staggering about the garden. He then moved effortlessly into Aeroplane, a song that describes the results of other means of being high. Swiftly followed by Good Bus and By My Rocket Comes Fire, a new number titled 38, before launching into an energetic Guitar Man with Whole Lotta Love.

Inevitably there had to be at least one call from the audience of ”How’s your Dad?”, referring of course to the legendary Roy Harper. “He’s fine,” Nick whips back. He gets this all the time but tonight is about Nick and it was clear he wanted to move on. Move on he did…. and we were off again into a whirlwind history tour with Field of the Cloth of Gold from his last album.

After nearly three hours, “It’s nearly time to go”, says Nick, “so my next song lasts about an hour…..”, well it was about 20 mins of Love Is Music winding back and forth entwined with the likes of Jeff Buckley, Blur and Led Zeppelin.

Cheered back on for an encore., it of course had to be Zappa’s “Titties and Beer”, now a stock Harper favourite.

Nick said on a few occasions how privileged he is to be able to play, write and do the things he loves. I believe tonight we were all very privileged to see him and the best thing was to turn to your neighbour and watch them smiling too. In fact the whole evening had been a joy ride of pleasure.

© Linda Carter

03 February 2008: Nick Harper – Academy, Manchester, England, UK

What’s in a name? Well quite a lot if you’re the son of the so-called “5th member of Led Zeppelin” and grew up surrounded by the likes of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Quite a lot too, if your dad stopped the ambulance to go and get his guitar so he could play while you were being born. So when Nick takes to the stage, it must be with a heavy burden on his shoulders and it must take its toll that he will always be compared to his father, Roy.

But by his performance here tonight in Manchester, that burden is one he seems to have finally put behind him. Right from the off, he had the audience in his grasp. When you’re just three minutes into a song – “No Truth Up In The Mountains” – and you break a string, for most artists this would take a minute or two of readjustment. Not this man: he just carries on singing, pulls a string out of his back pocket, restrings, continuing to perform, and then bang, he’s back into the song complete with 6 strings!

He was quick to point out that in fact there is truth in the mountains, but only if you take it with you, as he had done in November last year. He is rapidly becoming known as a great charity worker for his work with the Love Hope Strength Foundation. The gig he played at Everest Base Camp with Mike Peters and Glenn Tilbrook, is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the highest ever gig which was to raise money for cancer care within Nepal.

The next song, the lively “Aeroplane” was followed by the soulful “Three Magpies” and then the wildly fast cover of Elvis’s “Guitar Man” sprinkled with a little “Whole Lotta Love”. His forte lays in interspersing his songs and music with hilarious, yet moving, tales of his travels and experiences in Nepal. He likes to take the audience on a journey of emotions through the evening with a carefully balanced set of beautiful melodies such as “Real Life” and “Imaginary Friend” written for his late mother through to blazing rock in “ Treasure Island” and the marathon show piece “Love Is Music”, in which he manages to include sequed pieces from Blur, Jeff Buckley and Led Zep along with his own early “Headless” and allow it to flow so perfectly that they sound like they were always intended to be joined as one.

The standing ovation gave Nick a chance to encore his first and currently only single “ Blue Sky Thinking” which is an enchanting ditty picked out upon the guitar. Unfortunately Nick’s voice had had enough by this point and the notes weren’t tuned well enough for my ear. This didn’t stop the crowd cheering for a second encore.

Nick is a hugely talented guitarist and songwriter and a “must see” for anyone who likes their live music.

© Richard Critchley

02 February 2008: Nick Harper – City Varieties Hall, Leeds, England, UK

Leeds City Varieties hall is a venue of great charm but fading splendour. Jon Gomm, the opening act, put together an excellent performance of virtuoso guitar playing, vigour and humour, stating that everything his hero Nick Harper, the night’s star, knows, “he learnt from me.”

When Harper himself walked onto the stage, to immediately start light bantering with the audience, there was thunderous applause – and the tone set for the evening. Harper has recently returned from an expedition to Mount Everest where he performed at the world’s highest ever concert in aid of the Love, Hope, Strength Foundation – a charity set up to fight cancer worldwide. This trip formed much of the theme running through the night’s set list. He started the set with the appropriately titled There’s No Truth Up In The Mountains.

Following on with the perennial and lively Aeroplane, the soulful Three Magpies and then the wildly fast cover of Elvis’s Guitar Man, sprinkled with a little Whole Lotta Love, in a nod to his influence as a child and teenager by family friend Jimmy Page..

Interspersing his songs and music with hilarious, yet moving tales of his travels and experiences in Nepal, Harper proved that he is not just a unique musical virtuoso at the forefront of the British acoustic guitar movement, but also an artist of depth and passion. An already emotional charged performance was heightened by the beautiful Imaginary Friend, a song he wrote for his late mother the day she died.

The exquisite Real Life stunned the audience into almost complete silence, whilst the brilliantly riotous 20 minutes of Love is Music had them bouncing around the venue and begging for more. The two hour set finished with Jon Gomm joining him for the hauntingly beautiful Radio Silence. It was an absolute delight to witness these two guitarists dueting together. Even after a full two hours he still managed to leave his audience wanting more.

Leeds Variety Hall needs more evenings like this.

© Bob Bernard