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