25th October 2013
The Bridgewater Hall
At the age of 72 and off the back of a new album, Roy Harper returned to Manchester to play at the Bridgewater Hall in front of an adoring crowd. Here was Roy, born and raised in Rusholme, playing to his long haired, bearded disciples, all of them eager to catch their local hero for perhaps the last time.
Despite not receiving the same international acclaim as many of his peers throughout his career (Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters etc.), he is much revered within the folk scene and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards earlier this year. Another great fan of his work, Jonathan Wilson, supported Harper at Colston Hall, playing a few intimate numbers off his most recent album, a record with many collaborators including Harper himself.
Wilson, a multi-instrumentalist who subsequently put in a tasteful turn in Harper’s band, also doubles up as a producer and produced ‘Man and Myth’, Harper’s latest effort. Wilson and Harper’s frequent, witty and endearing exchanges during the performance were an obvious sign of the duo’s respect for each other’s talents.
This night was to be Harper’s though as his masterful songwriting, inimitable vocal style and heartwarming rapport with the audience, left the audience in raptures. Harper rattled through both new and old material, highlights being ‘The Stranger’, ‘January Man’ and the heart wrenching ‘Time is Temporary’ off latest effort, ‘Man and Myth’.
The night was really an exercise in nostalgia however, with old classics such as ‘Me and My Woman’ and ‘Sail Away’ being performed with particular vigour: the string and brass section providing the necessary bulk coupled with subtle orchestration to bolster Harper’s intricate guitar playing.
The best was saved till last however, as ‘When the Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease’ was saved for his encore. One seemed to feel that the song’s resonance was amplified by Harper’s own admission that ‘this might be one of the last times’ a sad reality for his loyal fans.
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