Nick at Birmingham Academy 2,
Tuesday 4 November 2003 - by Stuart Castell

This is the third time I have seen Nick this year, I was blooded at Canterbury and been hooked ever since. My mate Richard ensures I get a regular dose of Harpic by arranging concerts complete with increasingly complex travel plans. Nick's gig at Wrexham meant people in the boot of my car to avoid two vehicles; the latest gig at Birmingham was to involve a series of meet ups on trains, ticket exchanges and possibility of a lift back home if a Nick made it to the gig (no not THE Nick - lesser, mortal Nick). This trip was carefully arranged by Richard which meant I was to travel to Birmingham by train meeting some one on the way, but Richard informed me at the last minute the person I was to meet fell foul of the drink and couldn't make it. Richard was already in Birmingham not answering his phone plus it didn't look like Nick could make it, so it was probably Central trains back to Shrewsbury. So, all was going to plan...

Anyway, once I arrived it was off to Academy 2 to get the tickets. I waited outside with the hordes of Nick fans braving the cold and wet November night... this amounted to 2 people and I think one was the cleaning lady. But no bother, I was early so a good spot was assured. No sooner had I joined the queue than Nick appeared, off to get some grub before the gig. We watched him walk up the road only to see him enter the Ocean Fish Bar chippie. "This can't be right," I thought, "Nick the guitar god tucking into fish 'n' chips with the great unwashed... a guitar virtuoso should be having his toes sucked backstage and spoon fed caviar by scantily clad maidens." Nick Harper is a true man of the people to forego such pleasures. Well, I thought I can't match his singing or guitar playing so I decided to follow in his footsteps and get my supper from his chippie of choice, losing my place in the queue, but what the hell you only live once. Richard appeared and off we went to the gig stopping to help save Palestine on the way.

Academy 2 is a bit of a dive, black throughout with a mesh barrier around the stage. Grim to say the least. The support were good though, a boy-girl two piece, great vocals, melancholy, a bit on one level but sounded great. Don't know who they were, the guitarist did mumble the name but we didn't catch it. [think they were the Havenots - P.]

Nick was in fine form starting with Shadowlands, followed by Aeroplane and Radio Silence. Strings were broken (3), complete with mid-song changes. He played a lot of new stuff off Blood Songs, including My Little Masterpiece, Vampire Song plus Love Junky which I hadn't heard live before. Guitar Man was fun as usual, no Galaxy Song but there was a great Love Is Music montage which included usual references to Jeff Buckley and Beatles plus someone else that we couldn't put our finger on. For the encore he got out the 12 string and treated us to Happy Man, Riverside and of course Titties 'n' Beer which included appearances from Arnie and Dubya.

Nick certainly blew away the cobwebs and gloom of Acadamy 2 but I felt he didn't enjoy it as much as the Wrexham gig. Maybe it was the venue, maybe the fish 'n' chips but we had a great time all the same.

Due to Richard's carefully coordinated travel plans we had to leg it before Nick's last chord had finished ringing out to get the last train back to Shrewsbury. It would have been good to meet him again but Central Trains wait for no man, not even Nick. We had a nanosecond to say hi to [friend of the HOH] Philippa before we headed back into the November night with our bellies full of Harpic 'n' Chips.

Created 22 February 2004
© SC/PLC 2003/4