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Birkenhead Pacific Road, 14 November 2007

A frequent visitor to the International Guitar Festival, Nick Harper was back in town (I know, it's only Birkenhead, but it sounds good) and here was my chance to capture him live for the first time. Bloody hell! If you've never seen him, stop reading this immediately, find out where he's on next, and get your arse down there - you won't be disappointed.

Nick Harper live is less a gig, more a cathartic experience. He stands there for around two hours with nothing but his trusty Lowden between him and failure and proceeds to take you on an amazing musical odyessy between string-breaking frenzy and the most delicate, touching songs you'll ever hear.

He began the night with "She Rules My World", a staggering piece of guitar virtuosity where the melody line is carried by him twisting the tuning pegs of the guitar to produce an amazing sound, and you think to yourself "where does he go now?", "has he peaked too soon?". As if.

Harper favourites follow one after the other - "By My Rocket Comes Fire", a stunning "Blood Song", "Simple" and a version of "Real Life" during which, despite a large and enthusiastic audience, you could have heard a pin drop.

The guitar playing is of such an exceptional standard you occasionally have to check that more guitar players haven't arrived on the stage - and such is the sheer professionalism of the guy, that when he broke a string at the end of "Aeroplane" he was able to re-string, and re-tune the guitar whilst reciting a poem ("A Wiltshire Tale").

The gig finished with a rendition of Monty Python's classic "Galaxy Song" and an inspired (and almost demented) version of Rodney Carrington's "Titties and Beer" to a standing ovation, and an encore of "Crazy Boy" and "Blue Sky Thinking".

My own personal highlights were "Simple", "Blood Song" and a truly uplifting rendition of "Imaginary Friend" together with his in-between-song banter, most of which concerned his record-breaking "World's Highest Gig" at Everest Base Camp in support of the Love Hope Strength Foundation.

He will never become a household name in a world dominated by global sales, musical hype, boy bands and X-Factor no-marks, but he's rightly regarded as a National Treasure by those in the know, and those in the know had a great night. Hats off to Nick Harper!

Review by Alan Jones

Best of 2007


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