Paula writes: Thanks to Rob for letting us put up the text of his articles from the Herald - we are happy to do so! Not only is Rob a great writer as well as amazing at juggling what seems like 50 shows a day at the Fringe, but he has impeccable taste in music. For all that, we salute him! That, and the "aural Lucozade... musical Mars Bar" line in the latest Fringe review, which is indeed total quality. ;)
From the Glasgow Herald, 21 January 2002
Celtic Connections: Nick Harper/Ivan Drever, Tron Theatre, Glasgow
This concert, masquerading anonymously in the Celtic Connections brochure as The Singer and the Song, featured two singer-songwriter-guitarists, both with followings, but few of whom were reached by the festival's publicity machine. The result was a rather more intimate evening than expected, with perhaps more of an insight into the workings of a singer-songwriter than the programmers envisaged.
Ivan Drever continued in the very personal manner which he has pursued since leaving Highland folk-rockers Wolfstone, his pleasantly sleepy vocal style and able guitar work planting both original songs and tunes and cover versions comfortably in the listener's ear. The spaghetti-western air, the White Horse, a typically persuasive reading of John Prine's Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, and a slightly Eddie Cochranised version of Michael Marra's Niel Gow's Apprentice were stand-outs in a fine set.
Marra himself appears in this series - on Thursday, January 31, and while we're dishing out some much-needed promotion, the second guest, Nick Harper, supports Mary Coughlan at the Old Fruitmarket tonight. Go early and see him. Outrageously gifted, he deserves an audience for his committed, creative songwriting, soulful singing, and startling musicianship, particularly after a set here in which he seemed to be putting in twice his usual phenomenal workrate for half the musical return. Sheer force of personality, a sympathetic audience, much chip-off-the-old-block madcap wit, a dedication to the old block himself, Crazy Boy, and a lot of hard guitar graft got him through, although it would have been worth turning up just to witness the performance he made of changing a broken string.
From the Glasgow Herald, 13 August 2002
Edinburgh Fringe: Nick Harper, Southside - 4 stars
In like a lamb, out like a lion. The great thing about a Fringe residency is that, assuming it's not some scripted automaton, audiences see the artist in varying guises. As one guilty of squeezing in return visits to Harperland for fun, I can confidently predict that the next Nick Harper gig I or anyone else sees will be completely different to this.
Here he began introspectively. Songs that can, if not rock, then certainly loom large were delicately laid out. The instrumental Like Punk Never Happened, a Segovianesque guitar study, was performed from the comfort of a back row cushion.
That's Harper: playing live to, being honest with an audience who almost instantly become friends. When a mobile phone - his own, to his horror - interrupts a new song of paternal pride, he improvises and completes it as The Ballad of BT. Wit, warmth, virtuosity. Then, bang. The strumming arm pistons into Headless, generating enough energy to fuel the national grid.
With Harper you don't get everything in the same order or quantity every time, but you do get everything. See him soon.
From the Glasgow Herald, 21 August 2003
Edinburgh Fringe (Aurora Nova): Nick Harper, St Stephen's, ends tonight - 5 stars
Fringegoers suffering from week-three fatigue, here's your fillip, your aural Lucozade, your musical Mars Bar. Just as some Fringe shows seem like the longest hour of your life, 60 minutes of Nick Harper in this wholehearted, energy-giving form feels momentary and yet, as the best live music should, nourishing, too.
Given the strict timing, "Harpic" promised the hits. Yes, but whose hits, seasoned watchers of this always personable one-person band might ask. Harper hits, for sure and there were even one or two new hits - well, they sound up to snuff - from the imminent Blood Songs album.
But there were others' hits, too: Elvis, Led Zeppelin, Monty Python, Public Enemy, and a stunning reading of Jeff Buckley's Grace, all either assimilated into Harpersongs or, as ever, made Harper's own. Being a hits show, there was also a breakage. Harper plays with such locomotive momentum, contrasting with his gentler dexterity, that he's the guitar string industry's biggest pal and as Harperlore dictates, he replaced the string while continuing to sing like a linnet. You have one more chance to catch him - same place, tonight. I might join you.
From the Glasgow Herald, 17 October 2003
Nick Harper, Sat Oct 18, 7pm, The Liquid Room, Victoria Street, Edinburgh, £10 (£8 adv) 0131 623 0168; Sun Oct 19, 7.30pm, Tolbooth, Stirling, £8 (£5.50) 01786 274000.
Do Angels have wings? Nick Harper doesn't, but he can fly - vocally and instrumentally. The singing, songwriting, guitar playing force of nature was granted Herald Angel status for his outstanding performances at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.
He's back in the central belt this weekend, continuing at the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen on Monday and Bein Inn, Glenfarg on Wednesday, to promote his latest album, Blood Songs.
It's his sixth studio recording but his reputation has been built largely on his extraordinary wholehearted live performances which portray best his soaring, almost operatic vocals and breathtakingly dynamic, virtuoso guitar technique.
"Harpic's" gigs are notable also for his warmth of personality and for cover versions - including an astonishing take on Jeff Buckley's Grace - which complement his own superbly crafted songs about life, the universe and... hangovers.
Oh, and you know that bit where guitarists break strings and have to stop? Harpic plays so physically that casualties are inevitable. Except, he'll replace the broken string, tune up and fire back into the song while still singing. It's not a gimmick; it's an artform.
One more time, then: if you've never seen this guy live, you're missing out on one of the musical phenomenons of our age.