Many of you who know me may know that I love traveling and music, and that I'm a bit impetuous and, let's face it, loopy ["No shit, Sherlock!" - everyone who knows me]. So when Nick announced his first gig of 2002, and it was in Birmingham two days before my birthday, and there was no sign of any Scottish date on the horizon, I dithered for about five whole minutes. Cheap train ticket? Check. Cheap B&B within a light year of the venue? Check. Like-minded crazy people from various mailing lists to meet up with for beer and giggles? Check, check, check. Okay, done - my birthday present to myself. And it was fabulous - see here for more on that night.
Well, two days after returning from that 600 mile (approx.) round trip to Ronnie Scott's, the last thing I was expecting to go up on the Quixotic website at 4pm on a Thursday was this: Nick was playing two *GLASGOW* gigs as part of Celtic Connections for the 18th and 19th of *JANUARY*. Yes, as in the next day and Saturday. D'oh!
At this point, I could either laugh or cry. So I laughed (maybe just a bit hysterically), and proceeded to rearrange my life for the next 48 hours. Luckily, I have a long-suffering husband and an understanding mother-in-law, so I was let off the family dinner for Saturday night - we were all going to go out in the morning and afternoon, but that would be fun and of course I'd be ready in plenty of time for her arriving at 11am. Riiiiight.... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first gig was at the Tron, a converted church, on Friday the 18th. He had played the cafe bar in April 2001, but this time he was in the main hall. This gig was part of a series called "The Singer and the Song", and the opener was a man called Ivan Drever (once in a legendary Celtic band called Wolfstone). Anyway, he was very enjoyable, and I eagerly awaited the main man and the rest of the crowd, who at that point numbered about 20 (in a 150-seater auditorium).
Guess what? That was it. And I knew 3 other people there (besides Nick!). I thought that sucked for him, but oh well again there was very little notice - it's one thing buying a gig on spec, another knowing who's playing.
SET: She Rules My World / Karmageddon [with an a capella section while he changed a string mid-song - this was bloody impressive!] / The Magnificent G7 / My Imaginary Friend [for his mom] / Crazy Boy [for his dad, so he didn't get jealous!] / The Verse Time Forgot / Kilty Stone / new song [I have no idea what it's called, but he played it in Birmingham as well and it's a really beautiful love song - this one's definitely for his girl :)] / Headless / "Love is Music" medley
ENCORE: In Our Time
Sadly enough, none of my pictures from that gig came out. Take my word for it, Nick was in a really good mood during the gig, though he did seem a bit put out by the size of the crowd. He joked that maybe it was because we couldn't take alcohol into the venue but he could. Amazing how, after 3 "Nick Harper: the sober years" gigs in a row, I forgot how much more in-your-face the full-on Harper live experience could be, haha. He loved the Tennents (very very much!), but bantered with a Belgian contingent about whether Leffe (sp?) was better. And we discussed how Santa may be bringing pretzels to a certain world leader next Christmas. Allegedly.
At this point, two hours after I got there, I was tired but happy. Also, I was thinking it would be nice to get home and get some sleep, as I would be doing this all over again the next night. Uh-uh. Guess who decided to play the legendary Festival Club at Glasgow's Central Hotel. And well y'know, I was there already, and I had met up with friends who were going, and hey it all sounded like SUCH a good idea at the time...
Cut to four hours and (for me) quite a few drinks later (eep). Nick took the stage, very merry and taking no prisoners. This was a more in-your-face set (lots of guitar assault and battery resulting in another midsong string change), maybe to grab the crowd (who were much rowdier and far younger than the earlier one) who may not have known him at all. I did hear some guys behind me talking about "oh yeah you've got to hear this guy!" and "yeah you'd swear you heard his dad" (really? :) so he wasn't totally preaching to the unconverted.
SET: Headless medley / She Rules My World / Guitar Man / Titties And Beer [co-starring a very pissed and confused devil!]
ENCORE: Building Our Own Temple medley [with another a capella string change - do you think he gets a lot of practice with that?!?]
I thought he did a great job, even though he only (?) played for around 40 minutes. The crowd - what was left of it at 3am! - loved it and he got a huge cheer, especially when he went tabletop walkabout during Headless. [Safety note: very cool, Nick, but next time for fuck's sake don't walk on the tables with lit candles LOL.] Definitely worth sticking around for... even though I got to bed at 5am and had to be coherent, as previously mentioned, for 11am. D'oh again.
By the time Saturday night rolled around (and after falling asleep on the train), I was damn near hallucinating and not much up for another night's festivities. And I had vowed that no way was I having another drink that night. It's just amazing how you forget all these things, isn't it?
This gig was at the Old Fruitmarket, which *literally* is the site of Glasgow's former produce market. So literally that the tables and chairs were set up in what was really an indoor street, with curbs and cobbles, roofed in but still surrounded by awnings and old grocers' signs. I'd never been there before and thought it was pretty cool. As I'm a klutz, I did take care to watch out for the curbs. :)
I don't know much about Mary Coughlan (for whom Nick was opening) but she has a really lovely voice and an amazing piano player - she was like a torch-song-y folk singer. And her large crowd seemed pretty "serious" and sedate. My friend and I weren't sure how they would get into Nick, and admittedly they didn't turn cartwheels (a lot of the jokes seemed to whistle straight over their heads - whoops!). But they were lovely and attentive, and judging by the ones we heard after the show, he'd made a very favourable impression. Even my pink elephants were driven away...
SET: She Rules My World / Karmageddon / The Magnificent G7 / Guitar Man / The Verse Time Forgot / The Kilty Stone [a Celtic song for a Celtic festival!] / In Our Time / Galaxy Song / Headless medley
Thankfully, Nick finally remembered to introduce himself and got a nice round of applause, which he attributed to his genealogy! He also remembered to mention that he was playing in both Glasgow and Edinburgh in April (he got the dates wrong, but hey it's the thought that counts). And will that stop me from seeing a few gigs outside Scotland? Well, what do you think? *big cheesy grin*
As you can see, he did some of the same songs at each of the venues but really did quite different sets - it was probably the mood of each gig. And every show was great in its own way, the first one nearly better than the Ronnie Scott's gig the week before (and that was a great one, so that's saying something).
Nick did say he hopes to play Celtic Connections again next year - maybe everyone will know more in advance and I can work on building up my Tennent's tolerance... until then, see you at King Tut's!