IN THE PRESS
Reviews of Live Shows From 2001 and Before:
Please be on the look out for reviews of shows and email them or cut them out and send the hard copy to PO Box 12695, London SE10 9ZJ. Thank you!
Edinburgh Evening News - Hats Off To Harper 8 August 2001
Edinburgh Fringe @ The Komedia, Nicolson Street *****
The fact that Nick Harper is one of the country's great-undiscovered talents was borne out by the fact that it was the reviewers who were the most vocal in making their requests known. And it's easy to see why Harper is held in such high regard. Firstly, there is his there is his rich, velvety and amazingly powerful voice. Then there is his breathtaking acoustic guitar work that utilises every technique known, and some that arent. His technique of slackening and tightening strings during play, and the necessity for quick re-tuning, often while mid-song, calls for locking banjo pegs on each string. This allows him to create a host of effects from simple bends to complex melodic runs that incorporate open harmonics. The heavy-duty base string of his specially adapted Lowden guitar would not be out of place on a cello, producing a booming percussion effect that could crack open a paving slab.
But what Harper manages to convey more than anything is his outrageous sense of fun. He is a natural comic with a mischievous boy-next-door look that is absolutely charming and captivating. Besides his obvious talents as a singer/songwriter, he loves playing games with the audience. From time to time he will unplug his guitar and take time out to serenade a member of the audience. He is even happy to mess around with a digital sampler, producing wacky sounds as a backdrop for his songs. In one heart stopping moment, he played a bang on version Whole Lotta Love, complete with screaming vocals. And it was done live, before your very eyes. Jaws dropped. Yet he makes it look infuriatingly simple.
Blistering chord runs and a rapid succession of licks demonstrate that he can heckle and harass the very best from his guitar. Yet this is offset with constant banter and an exuberance that is incredibly infectious.
But there was more to Nicks performance than intricate and elegant guitar work that openly reflects shades of Led Zeppelin, Killing Joke and Steven Stills. From the first pluck of a string until the last dying chord, he played games with the audience. One moment chatting and joking as though with old friends, the next making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with exquisite material such as Crazy Boy and The Verse That Time Forgot.
Inimitable showman Harper has a gigantic talent and a repertoire of well-crafted songs, some stunningly beautiful and others a fun-filled frolic with notes and lyrics. Added to this are a few surprises - you never know what he's going to do next. It all adds up to a full package of dazzling entertainment. It's a show that crackles with merrymaking, firmly grounded in musical excellence.
Run through: Aug 3-5, 8, 10-12
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Edinburgh Evening News - Pick Of The Fringe - MUSIC
Nick Harper *****
Guitar wizard, singer/songwriter and one of this country's great undiscovered talents. Catch him now and prepare to be amazed.
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METRO - Edinburgh Fringe Festival - 9 August 2001 (LIVE)
GIG review * * * *
Son of the legendary Stoner hero Roy, Nick Harper has successfully emerged from beneath that paternal shadow in recent years, gaining widespread recognition as a gifted singer songwriter in his own right, as well as a singularly skilled and inventive guitarist.
Though occasionally a touch too loudly abrasive, his instrumental prowess certainly proves mighty impressive, employing a welter of techniques on his customised acoustic six-string - picking and stopping with both hands, explosive percussive strumming, thunderous basslines, slide style licks bent with tuning pegs, echo, delay and live sequencing effects - to create soundscapes of tremendous scale, density and power. His voice too, is a similarly versatile instrument, ranging from a rippling dreamily melancholic floatiness reminiscent of The Neville Brothers to a Led Zep-esque banshee howl.
Continuing the family tradition of eloquent protest songs, his set features a good sprinkling of politically inclined material, including the scathing The Magnificent G7 and Out Of It - the latter a mischievously titled but ninth less bile-fuelled indictment of consumerism and environmental despoliation. Elsewhere, Harper celebrates the troubadour's life in Guitar Man, mused gently on the dreamstate between waking and sleep in Radio Silence, and plaintively on the songwriting process itself in The Verse Time Forgot, his singing in the last number recalling the fragile melancholy of Thom Yorke.
Harper's easy-going, unassuming stage patter contrasts nicely with the commanding intensity of his music, but despite this touch of diffidence, there is no doubt we are watching a major talent at work.
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THE HERALD - Edinburgh Fringe Festival - 6 August 2001 (LIVE)
A subdued opening from the artist also known as Harpic. By which you may deduce that he performed his Elvis-meets-Led Zeppelin medley - Guitar Man tumbling into Whole Lotta Love, on which he out-Plants Plant and, sorry, turns over Page - from the stage rather than atop some unsuspecting soul's table.
Not that this betrays any lack of wholeheartedness. Singer-songwriter-guitarists don't get any more committed - or any better - than this. Whether he's ruminating on political ineffectiveness or regretting a hangover, Harper gives his very considerable all. Today this includes Janet and John, whose primary-school-book connotations hide a caustic energetic, and cleverly hilarious rant on vanity surgery, pacifism and jargon and a masterclass with his latest gadget which allows whole choirs of Harpic's swishing sounds to be constructed in situ.
Warning though: anyone considering a "musician hiding behind technology" argument here, forget it. Unplugged, Harper has the goods to spare: a phenomenal guitar artistry and a voice as persuasive as it is agile. Just ask the woman he serenaded on his strolling player finale. I'll bet she hasn't stopped smiling yet.
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Reviews of Nick Harper's stint at the Fringe Festival as they appeared on the official website www.edfringe.com
5/5 14 August 2001
Reviewer: Benny Placido Country: UK
I have seen the past, present and future of music and Nick Harper is it's name. Well actually I said that about his dad some years ago, but I live in hope that the world will actually learn to love music that's powerful, emotional, poetic, challenging and other words which make it sound pretentious and dull, which it isn't. Above all Nick is a simply brilliant guitarist, with a sure and powerful technique that towards the end of his last show on sunday ended up with the death of two of his strings on the trusty old Lowden guitar he plays. Yet he played on. What professionalism, what skill, what a cheap set of strings. The only tragedy is that you won't see him again at this festival, Sunday was the last gig, but catch him on his upcoming tour, you won't be sorry. Maybe someone could keep a spare set of strings around for him.
5/5 Gets my Best of Fringe award 13 August 2001
Reviewer: Paulabear Country: Scotland
I've been a fan of Nick's for a few years now, but it was great to be able to see him at the Festival for the first time (well, okay, quite a few times!). I know the shows are over now, but it's really worth seeing him whenever you can when he's in your area - he's one of the most gifted, charming, versatile, beguiling as well as laugh-out-loud-funny performers you'll ever see. Anyone with any different adjectives is welcome to add to this description. :)
5/5 weapon of sound 10 August 2001
Reviewer: douglas charles-ridler Country: england
wow this harper man can play guitar. i have never seen one man create so much noise to enjoy! a thorough exibition in guitar skills which deserve a bigger stage and a voice that can send shivers down your spine.put this together with a strong set of songs and a far bit of banter and you truely have a gig to remember. a rare talent indeed.
5/5 I'll be coming back for more!! 9 August 2001
Reviewer: Harry Farmer
Superb!! a performer that deserves a bigger audience - he had this venue screaming for more!!! book me a front row seat....NOW!!
5/5 Let me entertain you 6 August 2001
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Reviewer: Doug Henderson Country: Scotland
Singer-songwriter Nick Harper is a hidden gem at the Komedia venue based at Southside. A packed house on Sunday in the Cabaret Bar were left enthralled and delighted by this fantastic show. There's a difficult balancing act between displaying mastery of any musical instrument and putting on a show for the audience. Harper manages to do both with stunning guitar skills, great self-penned material and a true commitment to giving VFM to the audience. Mixing up an Elvis cover, bit of rap, an Eric Idle song, though mostly his own beautifully crafted songs, he delivers a superb hour and a half. He deserves a bigger venue and a bigger audience but don't just take my word for it, I overheard this from another audience member after the show : "That guy was absolutely brilliant!"
The Larmer Tree Festival - Featured artist Nick Harper - Wow! How did he do that?
Sunday was Eric Bibb day. The day of Eric Bibb.
I found myself not wanting to do anything but sit and wait at the very front of the Main Stage until 7:30pm, just passing time listening to the likes of Arnie Cottrel and Tim Payne doing ballady Dylan covers and absorbing the Bap Kennedy Band's country guitar antics - I probably would have done had it not been for the lovely Nick Harper.
I just had one of those feelings as soon as I walked into the Big Top that Nick Harper was going to be something a little bit different. The floor was carpeted with sitting humans and it was a struggle to find a space. It seems Nick Harper always generates this kind of interest, for his line of performance treads on the dangerous boundaries that stand between the comedian's comical song, and the serious musician's ballad. His dad is Roy Harper, the famous side-kick to many a great band.
There is nothing "normal" about Nick Harper, and at times the audience had no idea whether they should be laughing or admiring his ferocious guitar thrashing, de-tuning abilities. And in doing absurd impressions of Led Zeppelin there was laughter and then, amazement - Wow! How did he do that? We just don't know, no idea, remarkable! - He's endearing, finger pickin', and writes songs about "mid-wake, mid-sleep, life and the universe and everything ..."
If this was a science lesson Nick Harper would be a liquid or a gas, for he bears no shape, no set style and no set pattern, and he most definitely proved to be one of the most purely entertaining performers of the festival.
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Evening News - Monday June 19, 2000 - Pleasance Cabaret Bar *****
Hair stands on end as witty genius sings the perfect song
When a gaggle of reviewers turn up at a gig, not because they are working but because they consider the show unmissable, then the artist in question must have some special quality.
And Nick Harper has a quality that stands head and shoulders above anything else you are likely to encounter.
He is the most underrated performer around. Not only are his songs intense and emotionally charged pure poetry put to wonderful music but he is also genuinely warm and witty.
He has a strange presence, which hooks your attention then holds it for two hours. His songs are rich in poignancy and melody, swirling tunes and lyrics that make the hair on the back of your neck stiffen. Numbers such as Radio Silence are outstanding, but The Verse Time Forgot from new album Harperspace is as close to a perfect song as you are likely to get.
Then there is his guitar work. He blithely switched tunings mid-song, thrashed out outrageous chord sequences and de-tuned while playing harmonics.
Everyone went home conscious they had just seen a remarkable performer in action.
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The Herald Monday June 19, 2000
Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh
Nick Harper has a new CD out, Harperspace not Harperspice as some wag suggested it should be called to maximise sales. After much heavy rotation, I can confirm that it's well up to expectations, with some of his best writing so far.
With Harper, though, as this latest visit confirmed, and even allowing for a touch of tour throat and a sound system that didn't always make life comfortable for him, CDs are just a means of keeping his adherents going between gigs. Eagerly consumed as they are, these little silver discs neither contain nor adequately convey the power and energy Harper manages to create in person, alone with his voice and acoustic guitar.
With added instrumentation on disc, the rockier songs kick along and the more reflective material glows.
But on stage, all the songs seem to grow an added dimension. He doesn't need a band. He is one. Aeroplane and Kettledrum Heart, both from his new album, were ideal examples: the former having all the welly of a one-man Led Zeppelin, the latter, an entry for the most eloquent musical hangover portrayal, all the more telling and shapely for its solitary directness.
That one man should be blessed with such manifold gifts brilliantly lucid songwriting, a singing style that is at once expressive and breath-defying in its construction, and supernatural guitar ability (he opened with a walk-on intro that sounded like Frank Zappa playing bluegrass) is unfair.
Talent and work rate this size should be filling Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Tonight Glaswegians can taste it in MacLachlan's Bar in West Regent Street. Be there or be deprived of a life-enhancing experience.
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The Guardian Wednesday June 14 2000
Remarkable guitar work
Nick Harper- Cecil Sharp House, London****
Its not easy following in the footsteps of a famous father, as Julian Lennon, Ziggy Marley and even Femi Kuti have learned. There's that initial burst of interest and publicity, followed by those tedious but inevitable comparisons. Nick Harper is clearly aware of all the dangers, but is stepping out bravely in the footsteps of his wildly unpredictable, often brilliant dad, Roy Harper. Nick is clearly inspired by his father after all, he toured and recorded with him before moving on to play with Squeeze but has now developed a complex, wildly varied style of his own.
His dad started out playing folk clubs, although he had more in common with the rock scene, and Nick is doing the same, making his London appearance at that bastion of English traditional music, Cecil Sharp House. Old-style folkies would have been startled. The audience looked as if they had wandered up from the clubs in Camden while making their way to Glastonbury (where Nick is appearing later in June), and when he came out for a soundcheck he played so loudly that he blew the PA system, delaying the start of the show.
It was well worth the wait. He strolled in through the crowd, already playing an elaborate guitar solo, wearing a white T-shirt and suitably neo-hippy velvet trousers, and launched into a two hour solo set that showed how far he has developed. His guitar work was remarkable, mixing bursts of rapid-fire strumming with finger picking, making delicate use of harmonies, then wandering off into unexpected chord sequences or bending notes by re-tuning the guitar in the middle of a song. All this was matched with a great sense of humour and the absurd as when he suddenly veered into a manic treatment of Guitar Man, or wandered out through the crowd during Happy man. Frank Zappa would have been impressed.
Harper's complex songs were not always as interesting as the instrumental pyrotechnics, but he has a good voice and his latest material, from the new album Harperspace, is his strongest yet, from the quirky lyricism of The Verse That time Forgot to the witty acoustic psychodelia of Aeroplane. He could do with just a little less frenzy and a dash more of his dad's intensity (that inevitable comparison) but he deserves to become a major figure in his own right.
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Rock 'n' Reel Magazine 1999
NICK HARPER - LIVE AT THE GROVE, LEEDS - 4TH NOVEMBER 1999
An unbelievably packed house for Nick, who had just returned from 5 weeks in the gool old US of A. Jetlagged he may have been, but both instrumentally and vocally he seemed totally unimpaired, playing a blinder of a set lasting close on 2 hours with no break. Nick wears his "son of Roy" mantle unassumingly; sure, there are similarities in vocal style and delivery, and just occasionally in lyric treatment, but the often meandering ramblings of father are here inhabited by a different energy, channelled into a positive, forthright and focussed thrust.
Nick's controlled rant is coupled with a strong instrumental presence (not for nothing has he been dubbed "the Hendrix of the acoustic guitar"). As well as performing songs from the whole range of his recorded output, Nick premired a few new songs to great acclaim, also Frank Zappa's 'Titties And Beer' (complete with astonishing vocal characterisations) and even the Monty Python 'Galaxy Song' (on which the audience participation even drowned Nick himself out!). Not only is Nick a brilliant and resourceful player, a natural virtuoso, with a punk sensibility in the modal thrash and tricky runs, but he's a brilliant vocalist too, with amazing range and control (holding on impossibly tocadences on the wonderfully desperate 'Radio Silence').
Against all the odds, he writes some fine love songs too. And the gig presented a chance to hear some of those amazing songs from 'Smithereens' shorn of the extra instrumentation, allowing their true power full rein. With a totally attentive crowd, it was an absolutely stunning gig - and only one string broken (during the encore at that!!!). Nick's CDs are impressive enough, but he's really at his best live. Go see!
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Nick strums up a little gem
April 1999 @ The Cabaret Bar, The pleasance ****
It takes more than exquisite guitar technique to excite and hold an audience it also demands panache and charisma. Songwriter and guitar virtuoso Nick Harper has it all. In abundance.
Blistering chord runs and a rapid succession of licks demonstrated that he could tease and torment the best from his instrument. His constant banter, exuberance and gentle humour proved he could also work an audience.
The heavy-duty bass string of his specially adapted Lowden guitar would not be out of place on a cello, producing a booming percussion effect that could crack a brick. His technique of slackening and tightening strings during play calls for locking banjo pegs on each string. This allows him to create a host of effects from simple bends to complex melodic runs that incorporate open harmonics.
But there was more to Nick's performance than intricate and elegant guitar work that openly reflected shades of Led Zeppelin, Killing Joke and Steven Stills. From the first pluck of a string until the last dying chord, he played games with the audience. One moment chatting and joking as though with old friends, the next bringing them clapping and whistling to their feet.
A natural comic, he at one point unplugged his guitar and clambered over the tables while belting out a rock 'n' roll riff. Bored with that, he duck-walked out the door and could be seen in the courtyard, still playing, in the rain. A lesser talent would never have pulled it off.
If there is one criticism, it is that he perhaps forgot the adage: leave them wanting more. You don't so much introduce Nick Harper as unleash him.
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The Herald, Monday, April 26, 1999
Nick Harper, Wellington's Ayr. By Rob Adams
What do reviewers do on nights off? Why, lost souls, dedicated fools, or sad gits you choose that they are, they go to gigs. Like this one, involving a 150-mile round trip to an unassuming lounge bar in a seaside town to catch one of those events that in years to come, time surely will pass into local folklore.
For two hours, Nick Harper for this reviewer's money the most powerful, nay incendiary, yet still largely undiscovered musical talent in the Western hemisphere held solo court. This goes beyond technical ability, of which Harper has mega-tonnes. Watching him develop over the years to a stage where his early songs have grown a thousandfold, its become about collected, channelled and chiselled ideas and boundless inspiration. Its also about whole-hearted dedication, honest toil and sweat in the name of musical communication with an audience.
With his athletic vocal stamina and gobsmacking, grace-and-danger guitar picking strings, plectrums, fingers, frets and tuning pegs alike brought into intricate but never gratuitously showy play he performed with tenderness and sensitivity.
He grooved with heavy metal energy, and danced on the edge of insanity and - during his customary unplugged walkabout a nearby table. Then he came back down to earth with rightful, but well-measured, ire about superpowers waging expensive war on television make-up artists while holding Third World countries to fiscal ransom.
He hero-worshipped his dad, Crazy Boy Roy, appropriated the Strangers' Golden Brown to chivvy the Chancellor, and in a finale equal parts Zeppelin, de Mille, and Tarantino, he enacted Frank Zappa's Titties and Beer, swapping characters and ad libbing brilliantly like some rock 'n' roll ventriloquist. Awesome.
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BIRMINGHAM WHAT'S ON - May 1998
NICK HARPER - Finn & Firkin, Birmingham 7 May 1998
His voice often spookily reminiscent of father Roy (especially on 'Ghost of Her Touch'), he also shares his distinctive Englishness, guitar wizardry and knack for off kilter songs. New album 'Smithereens' (Quixotic) branches out musically, exploring jazz trippy beats ('In Our Times'), crunching rock pop textures ('My Baby'), choppy Lennonesque blues ('Twisted'), and even d'n'b (the decidedly 'Out of It') as well as familiar introspective acoustic.
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Flappers - Live review from 1995
The intimate atmosphere at Flappers 20s club was the ideal venue for Nick Harper's style of performance.
The initially nervous, but very able local singer-guitarist Adrian Trueman was in support. Adrian has a clear, strong voice and writes songs that deal with a variety of emotions and sharp observations on life.
He set the mood of the evening, which was full of musical quality and lyrical wit.
Nick Harper attacks his guitar with superb, innovative technique, producing angry, crashing chords to accompany his cynical, political lyrics. (Somehow, I got the distinct impression that Margaret Thatcher would not be welcome at one of Nick's gigs!) But Nick can also sing the most tender of love songs. In fact his songs are packed full of acute insights into the human condition.
His new album, Seed, is well worth adding to your collection. It is, however, the live venue where he excels and where you can catch him mingling with his audience and enjoying a pint and a chat before he goes on stage. He also entertains between songs with wry, witty anecdotes, drawing his audience into his view of the way things are.
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Brighton What's On - October 1995
Nick Harper and the Good Seeds
Cosmo meets one-man orchestra and Roy's little boy, Nick Harper
I remember sitting in the Prince Albert one evening this summer and not quite believing my ears. Sat on stage was a moderately attired chap playing a guitar, yet if I closed my eyes I could well believe I was listening to a whole orchestra. He guided the audience skilfully through a whole spectrum of experience, from laughter to tears to righteous indignation via heights seldom reached by purveyors of the singer-songwriter form. Who is this man?
Well, he goes by the name of Nick Harper and the good news is he's back in Brighton on Thursday November 2nd at the Beachcomber Bar. You may have seen him supporting and accompanying his father Roy Harper over the last couple of years. 'It was quite liberating striking out on my own,' he says. 'I wasn't quite sure if people wanted to see me but now they seem to keep coming back.'
Having perfected his trade on the road, he has been in the studio and brought out two CDs this year, Light at the End of the Kennel and Seed. The first is an all-acoustic affair, the second has both solo work and arrangements with other musicians, whom he met at his father's local in Ireland. 'It was great watching my songs change, working with other people', Nick says of the experience. On one song, he plays all the instruments himself. 'I had to learn the violin in six days!'
Nick's songs range from the person to political (he is even a reader of SchNEWS) and his playing technique has to be seen to be believed he uses banjo pegs on his guitar so he can retune it whilst playing! As Total Guitar said last month: 'If there is any justice in the cosmos, Nick will be a huge star'.
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THE SCOTSMAN - November, 1995
REVIEWS: ROCK - Nick Harper The Pleasance, Edinburgh
Nick Harper is following in the footsteps of his father, the great Roy Harper, as a singer-song writer. There are stylistic echoes of his old man in his singing, and he possesses an equally idiosyncratic artistic vision, but he is emerging as very much his own man.
Predictability has little place in his music. A fairly typical sequence began with his slurred, distorted vocals and driving, demented guitar of We Must Build Our Own Temple, slid into the gentle, lyrical ballad Radio Silence, then took another radical turn into a manic slice of rockabilly.
His own songs are powerful and unconventional, whether dealing with politics, love and friendship, a vanished South American tribe, the obfuscations of bureaucratic language, or a favourite pub in Ireland.
He is cutting and comic, tough and tender by turns, and sings with a disturbing, unsettling passion that is entirely compelling.
That would be enough to ask of any artist, but Harper turns up the heat even further with his remarkable guitar playing. His rather rambling chats between songs could do with a little revision, but there is no deflecting the intensity of his work. You are not going to see him on Top of the Pops any time soon, but he is well worth watching.
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