As the son of legendary folk-rock star Roy Harper, and one-time member of New Wave pop band
This was an evening of high energy and robust guitar-playing, performed to a packed, appreciative room
Harper Junior's man-in-black sombre attire belied a lively, impassioned, and at times comic, gig that showcased some robust and deft guitar playing – though the voice, at times, did not quite match up to the musicianship. So, too, the lyrics, which while prompting audience laughter, seemed rather too contrived, with references to custard creams and Bakelite torches as attempts to depict Middle England,
Many songs are autobiographical - unsurprising, perhaps, for a singer-songwriter. We are plunged headlong into the set with a frantic song dedicated to his daughter – the lyrics of which consist entirely of 'clean your bloody room up!' - that gives way to a heartfelt tune about fatherly love. Elsewhere, The Juicy Fruit Girl, describes nostalgic yearning for the school sweetheart with a chorus that contains the crowd-pleasing lines, 'I can't forget the Juicy Fruit Girl/She used to chew it all day long and if she kissed you/She'd slip it up beside her gum/Yum yum'. It's a measure of Harper's versatility that he jumps from the prosaic to the eery Bloom, a song that allows him to show off a falsetto voice reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, but that falls sadly into the histrionic. Conversely, Simple, a punchy number about the pleasures of the simple life is a palate cleanser, with lines such as 'No drums, no bass/No style, nice easy pace/Simple'. This song is welcome after some anguished singing and unnecessarily fiddly finger-picking, which, while impressively dextrous, is not easy to warm to, and doesn't always appear to fit the song.
That said, there are fine melodies here and Harper is an entertaining and jocular performer. Admitting to a slow start – 'I'm just getting warmed up', he notes, after 45 minutes – he is in his element when keeping the falsetto in-check, refraining from shouting, and driving a melody on, as in the show closer, By My Rocket Comes Fire (or as he described it, 'the seven ages of man in five minutes'). This was an evening of high energy and robust guitar-playing, performed to a packed, appreciative room.