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www.djburnham.com, Writing, Review of Nick Harper live at the Greys, Brighton, 1st December 1997, David Burnham, D.J. Burnham, Dave Burnham
Nick Harper at the Greys, Brighton
Monday 1st December 1997
This was the first gig that I've promoted for Nick for about eighteen months, so I thought that we'd go for a small size venue to get the ball rolling again. I chose the Greys, which is a fine pub just down the road from us in Brighton, it serves some jolly good ales and has been host to the likes of Rory McLeod and Isaac Guillory.
Nick turned up at around 6pm., having driven down from London in the pouring rain, in fine fettle and I gave him a hand getting the gear out of the car. Busily ferreting around with cables and producing a most handsome mixing desk and effects rack, Nick set about constructing his P.A. for the night (with the aid of some in-house tackle as well.) He ran through his own soundcheck, making some very astute and subtle adjustments as he went along, all to the bemused interest of the pub's locals who Nick quickly got on his side when one of them asked for his rendition of the 'Telly Tubbies' theme. Setting the vocal mix to echo weird-out mode, Nick ran through La La, Dipsy and chums in the most surreal of fashions, and got a cheer from the barflies. Having run out of his favourite 'Throaty' pastilles he got me to mooch off up the road in search of throat charmers for the gig. I returned with blackcurrant flavoured Mac's, which seemed to meet with approval; though God know's what they tasted like in combination with Stella Artois later on in the evening (and the lucky bugger still hasn't got any fillings!) I quizzed Nick about the new album and it is apparently about to be mastered, so not long to wait now.
We saw an old pal of Roy's the other night at the Gardner Arts Centre in Brighton; does the name Andy Roberts ring any bells with you? He was performing with Adrian Henri, Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Willy Russell on their tour called 'Words on the run.' It was an evening of poetry, prose and scripts performed by a wonderful collection of Liverpool poets and a great deal of it set to music by Andy in varied and remarkably talented ways. Largely playing guitar, but he also bunged a capo fairly high up on a bazouki and played chinese-style music to accompany Roger McGough's oriental slot. Anyroad, check back your Roy albums (eg. Bullinamingvase and Unknown Soldier) and live reviews from many moons ago.
The bit on the promo' said:-
"Guitarist/composer Andy Roberts, ex-Liverpool Scene and cross-collaborator extraordinaire, has performed with Grimms, The Bonzo Dog Band, Plainsong, Roy Harper, The Albion Band, Billy Connolly, Pink Floyd and Rolf Harris. His many TV credits embrace The Men's Room and Madhur Jaffrey's Far Eastern Cookery. His film successes include the award-winning and controversial Priest. His latest score is for the current release, Face"
If they tour again, or if you get the chance to see Andy in any other context, then I'd heartily recommend it - he's bloomin' good!
Anway, back to the review of the other night in Brighton, that was in danger of becoming bit of a ramble for a moment then.
Adrian Truman played a great little 20 minute support slot and got a good response from the audience. One of the nice things about having done a few gigs with Nick in Brighton is that I've been able to build a pretty reasonable database for mailshots, so most of the people who come along are true fans and very attentive and polite, and this is passed on to the support acts as well.
Nick pottered on to stage around 9pm. and proceeded to work the old magic, only taking a few songs to warm both himself and the audience into a marvelously friendly occasion. Mike Lance, who runs the pub, has a rack of coloured lights aimed at the stage area, which produce quite a pleasant colour wash and he took it upon himself to switch all but the green off, rather suddenly, during one of Nick's songs and then back to all again. Nick grinned and surveyed the bar out of the corner of his eye. When he'd finished Mike said,"I'm sorry, I've only got two knobs to play with." Nick responded with "Blimey, lucky bloke," and then pulled various faces (like one of Vic Reeves' Eranu faces) as he contemplated this dual appendage concept and chuckling away to himself carried on playing.
For anyone who've been to see the recent shows, you know the rough set list so I won't repeat it here, but Headless, Temple, Radio Silence, Miracle, Peace Love and Happiness were all in there somewhere as where new ones like 5,000 Tigers and others that I'm not sure of the titles, but promised great things for the new album. Songs from Kennel feel like old friends and classics already, and got a strong response from the crowd. Nick played a superb version of Two Way Thing with harmonies within harmonies fluttering up from the strings. It's incredible to think that a couple of years ago he didn't seem too sure about keeping that one in the set. I seem to remember Jo Salkid requesting it at the Albert gig in Brighton one night, and Nick, being a bit staggered at getting requests at that early stage of his career, duly obliged and that might well have helped to change his mind. Anyway, truth is I was having a great time on the Guinness and can't remember exactly what was played or in what order, but I haven't enjoyed seeing Nick play live so much for ages. He's relaxed into the role wonderfully over the past couple of years, so even if the Squeeze thing did take up quite a bit of potential solo gigging time, I think it's done a lot for his confidence and easy stage presence. I 'spose I could sum it up by saying that he's more like himself on stage these days. It made for some jolly banter with audience too, especially with the likes of Neilly (old mate of Roy's) and Roger Christopher (engineered for Roy for a while - check out Death or Glory album credits) in the crowd. Also in the throng , and with 70 people in a small pub it was thronged alright, were Steve Harrison (Bass player with the Fold - Folk Rock - and the Dayglo Pirates - amazing Jethro Tull tribute band) and Martin Cooper (lead singer with the Fish Brothers - toured with the Levellers a while back and may do so again soon.)
Nick also took the opportunity to pass some 'Pictures of Lily' around, a gesture of trust and pride which even further underlined the intimacy of the night. He played like a demon, eliciting gasps from guitarists in the audience and cheers from the rest of us. At one point Mike Lance called out for people to pass their empty glasses back to the bar and jokingly threatened to come out for them otherwise, which met with "Oh, oh, the man with two knobs is Coming Out!" from Nick. At around 10.45pm Adrian Truman called out a farewell to Nick between songs "British Rail beckons I'm afraid," he said. Nick thanked him for his set and encouraged the crowd to clap so that as Adrian and his girlfriend Kaz left, they had their own round of applause to see them on their way.
After a one and three quarter hour set (including Riverside, yee hah) Nick left the stage to thundering cheers and sat on the corner to sell CD's and have a natter with the punters. He had time to pop back to our place after the gig for a while and then headed off home to Jackie and Lily.
During the course of the evening we set a date for the Brighton Festival in May next year, so Nick will be back to sunny Brighton on Friday 8th May at the Hanover Community Centre........and I can't wait!
All the best to fellow Harpies, far and wide for the festering season, Ding Dong Merrily on High!
Dave Burnham 1997