We arrived at the venue feeling all calm and serene (ha ha). Made our way to the bar to get our red wine fix before trotting off to see if there was any room for us at the front. We'd arrived just as the first act, a local band, were finishing up. Couldn't believe how packed the place was. Luckily, there weren't too many folk right up at the front - enough space for us! The local band seemed thrilled to be playing for so many people - one of them came out and took a photo of the crowd. Then people started surging forward and it crossed my mind that they were probably expecting the Levs on next so I wondered what kind of a reception Nick would get when he appeared. I'd stopped thinking *IF* he appeared by then.
Nick came on and launched straight into Building Our Own Temple. It made a nice change to be standing whilst watching him - dancing around rather than stuck in a seat with feet tapping furiously throughout his faster-paced numbers. Next up came Titties And Beer, which Tina had never heard before. He seemed to be going down quite well with the crowd in our vicinity - one chap next to me kept going on and on about how he'd seen him in Leicester and he'd broken a string. When I didn't looked shocked by that announcement he asked if I'd been in Leicester too. I couldn't resist saying that it's Nick's trademark and that the last time he'd played at the Assembly Rooms in Derby he didn't just break a string, he almost demolished the whole guitar!
Of course, there was one fly in the ointment. A fella immediately behind Tina and I had either injested too many drugs or was a certified lunatic. He was crashing around all over the place and totally out of his tree. At one point he grabbed hold of a girl's hand and was trying to drag her away, despite her kicking out at him and her boyfriend pulling her the other way. A fight almost broke out and Nick noticed what was going on. The lunatic was eventually pushed away, far back into the crowd as far as I could tell, and Nick said "okay, can we get on with the gig now?". Which, fittingly, led on to Song Of Madness. There wasn't a great deal of banter out of Nick - not enough time, unfortunately. He finished his set with Headless-Grace-string break... much to the Leicester man's delight! Then it was all over: "I've been Nick Harper - see me again if you liked it, avoid me if you didn't." And off he went...leaving us breathless for more.
Tina and I then slunk off to the bar to refuel. Whilst there we got chatting to a few people about Nick and they all seemed to agree he was fantastic. I overheard some guy saying "It's just INCREDIBLE how he gets so much out of an acoustic guitar". Indeed.
Tina and I had decided that we weren't overly fussed about seeing the Levellers. We liked them about ten years ago but haven't listened to them in recent times. But, somehow, we were drawn away from the bar once they started playing. Curiosity got the better of us and we had to go see. The crowd were going ballistic! We watched from the doorway and then decided to go up to the balcony for a better view. Talk about a pair of old wimmin... sitting on the balcony seats watching everybody jumping around getting sweaty!! We enjoyed it so much we ended up staying for the whole show - a very uplifting performance by the Levellers....made up for the fact that we'd only seen Nick for half an hour before his time was up.
There was a good mixture of people at the show. Children and parents even. Hopefully these support shows will be a good way for Nick to drum up a lot more fans who'd be willing to pay to see him play on his own in the future. Have to say I looked at the Lev's message board and a few people had written that they didn't 'quite get him' but mostly, if mentioned, he was described in favourable terms ie shit hot.
See more of Anna's photos here