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

Author: limur

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