Ironically, in the same week that bones of giant guinea pigs are found, Nick Harper says that all the folk in the Lamb Inn on Sunday night are really guinea pigs for what he is about to play. I just couldn't miss this gig (even though we only got a couple of days' notice) - a free gig in his local, great!
I got down to Marlborough at around 6:00pm and found my B&B which was on a dairy farm. Why am I telling you this bit? Well, I later found out that the farm is somewhat linked to Nick (albeit a very tenuous link) - the farm used to be owned by the one and only Douglas Hurd, as mentioned in Nick's song Mr. Grey!
Anyway, got to the Lamb at 6:30pm. It's a cracking pub (been there a few times before) with a very small stage at the front, which became even smaller by the time Nick had set up all his equipment! Nick had just arrived before me and was trying to make enough room for the PA system that he had borrowed from Pants, along with two massive (and I mean MASSIVE) speakers that took up half of the stage. This was going to be one loud gig, especially when I noticed he had a third guitar case with him... yep he'd brought along his trusty "normal" guitar, his "sometimes seen" 12 string guitar and a new ELECTRIC guitar! Oooh I was getting rather excited about this one, which probably made me drink a pint or two more than I was planning on. ;)
2 1/2 hours later, he was ready to start, and the first thing he did may have "impressed" some of the women of the HOH, as he took off his "Geezer" t-shirt on stage and put on a new "Pants" T-shirt. This didn't do much for me but the women in the crowd seemed to enjoy it [No comment ;) - P.]
So he starts his set off with his electric guitar ... and starts the first few chords of She Rules My World with his usual twiddling of the guitar pegs - you probably guessed I'm not really that into knowing the specifics about the makes and models etc of guitars - when he stops and points to some bloke in the middle of the crowd and shouts, "Are you going to be a f***ing w****r all night?" This seemed to do the trick as the bloke never said another word all night. Nick then apologised to the crowd for his remarks!
Electric guitar set: She Rules My World / Magnificent G7 (amazingly loud version) / My Little Masterpiece / Imaginary Friend / Roomspin
The first four songs took a lot longer to play than he normally does, mainly because of the lengthy banter in between them (well, the pub was full of all his mates and neighbours!) and the fact that he'd often go into some serious instrumental bits with his electric trying to mimic what he normally does with his acoustic guitar. He then stops the gig and shouts over to me for my opinion on what the electric guitar sounds like - the pub might have been full of his friends, but they'd obviously (?) not been to many of Nick's gigs - so as the electric guitar was great for me to see, they didn't really appreciate the fact that this wasn't the norm.
This is where I might have spoilt it for everyone else who is planning on seeing him on this tour, as I told him what I really thought - the electric guitar was brilliant to see, but for me it was just a novelty and IMHO the songs didn't come across as good as when he used his acoustic guitar. Surprisingly, this didn't come as a shock to Nick and he was obviously thinking the same way, so he said that the next song would be just for me and he wouldn't play it on the rest of the tour. And what a shame that is (if he sticks to his word [he didn't ;) - P.]) because the next song was Roomspin and it was absolutely amazing. Much much much better than his normal acoustic version - faster, louder and much longer!
When he eventually finished, he said (the bad news bit) that he wouldn't be taking the electrical guitar on tour with him and blamed me for that. I then got a few folk turning around and giving me some very strange looks. Sorry! [poor Chris - hey well he did bring it along a couple of nights, we're not mad at ya, honestly! - P.]
Then the acoustic set started. Guitar Man included a hop show - during the part where he swings his arms around in a circle he was hitting the [ornamental] bunches of hops that were above the stage which just sent them flying all over the place - made it another different experience. After Aeroplane he just checked again with me that the acoustic guitar was sounding ok... and of course it was! Out Of It was an amazing extra long version, with some serious headbanging from Nick.
After the Galaxy Song, he was then going to sing Lily's Song but appreciated that the crowd were much too loud for such a quiet (IMHO great) song; I then shouted out for the "Vampire Song" which he declined from playing, but said that he would be playing it on his tour... yippee! Amazingly, this is what he's actually called it on his new Blood Songs CD - I was flabbergasted when I saw that...
Headless was without the initial Blur bit (what a shame) but what seemed to be an extended version of the Jeff Buckley section (though by this time I was probably on my 12th pint of Guinness or so). He managed to break a string during this song and it looked like one of his mates was going to change it for him, but Nick declined the offer and changed it himself to the amazement and enjoyment of the crowd. He finished off the song with a little bit of Blur and another broken string (I think).
Now this must have been one of the longest versions of Titties And Beer that I've ever seen... he even started again in the middle. It was full of the usual and funny ad-libs including some "jokes" that were obviously for the locals - he mentioned Marlborough and the fact that it was a charity gig (in aid of the Marlborough Brandt Group), politicians etc. As usual it was chuffing ace!Then the 12-string guitar set... as always it's brilliant to see Nick playing this (and after the gig he said that he's seriously thinking about taking it on the tour with him - so some conciliation, if he doesn't take the electric one). He played the Beatles' Sun King, then Like Punk Never Happened - as always amazing.
At this point the bar was just closing so the end was obviously nigh. It was fortunate that the pub's clock that Nick was using had stopped at 10:15 and so this gave him the opportunity to fit a couple of other short (not!) songs in. He switched back to his "normal" guitar for a bit of audience participation as he sang Blockheads and then finally (as the bar staff had told him to do just one more) Building Our Own Temple, which was a brilliant way to finish off the night.
I had a chat with Nick and his mates after the gig and everyone made me more than welcome - many thanks to everyone. Nick and I talked about his guitars, and I told him that his fans would just love to see him play with the electric one (so at least I tried to convince him!), but I doubted whether it would gain him many new fans (IMHO). He again sort of agreed and mentioned that taking three guitars on tour is really not an option as his car is just not big enough! We/you may just have to wait until he tours with a band - so go out and buy lots of extra copies of his new CD. ;) Also talked to Fal, the guy who is responsible for the art work on the CD - he was wearing a t-shirt with the Bloodsongs cover on it, which looked great. IMHO it would be a great t-shirt to have (so long as they produced some big enough for Nick's BIG fans).
Overall it was a great night - not necessarily the best musically but still a brilliant experience. Just can't wait until the tour kicks off and hopefully he'll start playing some of the new ( & IMHO superb ) songs... roll on Putney. And if Nick can't take the electric guitar on tour for space reasons then I will be driving to Poole, Penzance (probably) and Kingsbridge in a big empty VW Passat so I could easily take the electric one for you if you wish!