Nick Harper

Nick Harper is a great guitarist and a good singer, but a middling lyricist. This is a real shame, as Harper’s unsubtle and occasionally jarring lyrics detract from his genuinely impressive musicianship.

A lovely cover of Purple Rain which really allows Harper’s talents to shine.

Harper’s guitar playing stands out almost at once. Unannounced, he starts aggressively strumming his acoustic guitar, opening a good-natured show. He begins with In Our Time, a dark, tumbling and ultimately optimistic love song. “I believe the strength within each soul can shape its destiny”, Harper urges, his voice strong, with a strained quality. He moves on to Breathe, giving the assembled crowd a first glimpse of his beautiful falsetto voice. Breathe, like some other of Harper’s songs, carries echoes of Jeff Buckley on GraceCorpus Christi Carol is the obvious song to compare. But riffs on other tracks also evoke songs like Lover, You Should’ve Come Over and Mojo Pin. Breathe is a lovely song and is one of the highlights of the set.

Unfortunately, Harper’s song-writing later on becomes a bit of a distraction. Quite often Harper seems to settle for an obvious line in his verses when a lighter hand would have been more effective. On Blue Sky Thinking – a song Harper introduces by saying it’s about making one’s dreams come true – Harper sings “make my blue sky dream come true”. On Juicy Fruit Girl (about a girl who Harper knew who ate juicy fruit chewing gum), Harper – presumably striving for a rhyme – simply ends a line with “yum yum”; elsewhere he describes how “when she kissed you she’d slip it [the juicy fruit] up inside her gum, to free her tongue”. It’s hard not to feel that Harper could have done better than this.

There’s also a lovely cover of Purple Rain which really allows Harper’s talents to shine. He’s a great guitarist, and reimagines the song with a different, (even) more melancholy tone. He’s heartfelt, sounds honest, and thankfully didn’t write the lyrics to this one. Elsewhere Harper is funny between tracks, and popular in the room. It’s a good show, though Harper would do better to focus on his strengths.

Reviews by Matthew Bradley

The Jazz Bar

The Great Hipster Songbook

★★★
Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

Mixtape

★★★★
The Jazz Bar

Nick Harper

★★★
Gilded Balloon at the Museum

The Beatbox Collective

★★★★
Quaker Meeting House

The Sorries

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Nick Harper's rich acoustic/folk heritage (he is folk legend Roy Harper's son) is recognised worldwide. ‘One of the finest guitarists of his generation, soaring vocals, epic songs’ (Mojo). 'Dylan for the iPod generation – Betjemen with a guitar' (Guitarist Magazine). 'The Acoustic Hendrix' (Guitar). Nick has made recordings with Lana Del Rey, Newton Faulkner and Steven Wilson recently, but returns here, one man and a guitar, with a show that led the Herald to award him a Herald Angel award and exclaim: '…for my money the best singer/songwriter on the planet' ***** (Herald).