Roy Harper – Edinburgh Usher Hall – Photos of soundcheck

These are a few photos from the sound check.  I’ll put up some more as I find time to sort them. Hope you like them.

Roy had a migraine earlier but managed to shrug it off though it left him a bit drained – I don’t think it showed.

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There is a lot of work getting the sound levels and tone right, coordinating the musicians and arrangements, and getting the lighting right. Sound checks are fraught with focussed attention and intensity. Everything is organised to the last detail. A lot goes on. Quite a bit different to the days when Roy would hitch-hike into a small club, take his guitar out of the case and step up to the microphone.

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Bill, Roy and Darren

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Roy Harper – Fifty Years of distillation of spirit – reflections from the Royal Festival Hall.

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Watching Roy closely through the day as it progressed to the concert in the evening and his performance on the night, left me with a sense of wonder. There was so much composure and meticulous control. This was a master at work honing every detail into place and crafting each song into perfection. He worked with the other musicians to create music that was sublime. Roy was totally focussed, listening intently, evaluating and weighing things up. He had the vision to deploy the strings, brass, double bass and accompanying electric guitar to augment and expand his songs, to bring out new slants, and to develop them into something greater.

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It set me reminiscing.

Fifty years ago I watched a manic young man, thin and hungry looking, clutching a battered old acoustic guitar, storming into the place with the force of a hurricane. He flung out vitriol, invective, humour and love in a machine gun rattle permeated with manic laughter. That young maniac was a law unto himself. There were no limits, barriers or performance. He unleashed himself upon the world. It was intimate anarchy. The songs were no different to the words. There was no stage patter. There was an open door into a mind in which the world was being analysed, society castigated, and the direction we were heading vilified with fury in desperate diatribe. Songs were interrupted by the volcanic flow of ideas as the lava of his mind poured forth in an unrelenting torrent. Nothing was taboo. There were no restrictions. He burned.

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Back then there was no performance. We were a group of friends sharing, growing and learning. The stage was his front room.

Nobody was doing anything as daring. At times it was a psychoanalysis session, at others a stoned rambling, an unleashing of angst, an outpouring of emotion, a humorous interlude or an intense display of musical creativity. It depended on his mood. He did not put on a performance so much as visit with you and share his songs, attitude, argument and mind. It was an experience. The songs were exceptional, the playing magical and the outpourings always intelligent, pointed and thought provoking. The man was a genius.

Of course, it did not make him universally popular, apart from with a group of similarly minded fanatics – denizens of the underground. Most people prefer shallow entertainment. They do not want to be bombarded with the failings of our leaders, the control exerted on us, the destruction of the planet, war, death and destruction.

As his popularity grew there were shouts from the audience ‘Get on with it!’ as people became fed  up with the lengthy anecdotes or thoughts. They were there for the songs. But I was enthralled. The songs were fabulous, but so were the ideas, asides, stories and perceptive insights. What they wanted was a sublime performance of the more beautiful songs. What they got was the whole uncompromising package.

Roy never really saw himself as part of the biz. Yet he loved and respected the music he was creating and in the studio he crafted it into as near to perfection as he could get – even if that meant twenty minute epics with content guaranteed to enrage critics and ensure no air-play. Roy played The Game and never played the game.

It was precisely because of this uncompromising stance that Roy never achieved the giddy heights he should have.

Now at the age of seventy five the passion is still there but the fires have died down. He is polishing the diamonds. There are no cries of ‘Get on with it’ they have mutated into ‘We love you Roy’. We have the performances he was always capable of and I have my memories of that fiery lunatic who seared his dreams into my ears.

 

Roy Harper – Royal Festival Hall – The Sound Check – Photos – Get your backsides to Edinburgh while you still have the chance! A magical time will be had that can’t be recaptured!

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Darren Crisp mentally checking things on the list. p1130334

Tracy checking a hundred and one things on the computer. p1130335

The Royal Festival Halls 2000 seats awaiting the bums of 2000 ecstatic Harper fanatics.

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I was told that it was OK to go and take photos in the sound check because Roy would not notice – he’d be in the zone

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Great attention was made to every detail. Linking in with Bill Shanley, Beth Symmons and Fiona Brice’s brilliant musicians.

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Roy and Bill Shanley (Hope you like these Bill?)

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Roy Harper – At the Royal Festival Hall – Triumphant Return for the Known Soldier! Photos from the gig! Review!

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Bill Shanley

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Bill Shanley and Beth Symmons

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Bill and Beth

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Our greatest Singer-Songwriter hit the stage to a rapturous applause from an adoring audience! The place was packed to the rafters and the atmosphere was magic with numerous calls of ‘We Love You Roy’.

After three horrendous years in the wilderness Roy was back! I’m not sure any of us were totally sure what to expect. He was seventy five years old and had suffered an enforced lay-off for three years! We needn’t have worried. The duck was back in the water. The rapport, humour and tales flowed and the audience lapped them up. More importantly the music was brilliant. Roy’s voice was as good as ever and he provided a superb, controlled run through a lot of the old standards that we all know and love so well – Commune, I’ll See You Again, Another Day, 12 Hours of Sunset, Me and My Woman, Hangman, When An Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease, Don’t You Grieve, Hors D’oeuvres, Hallucinating Light and Time is Temporary.

Roy was controlled and gave full vent to both his vocal range and guitar styles. Both the finger-picking and heavy riffing were both evident and superb. What made it so exceptional was the way this was augmented by Bill Shanley’s brilliant guitar accompaniment (with guitar, slide guitar and banjo) which supplemented without intruding to create something greater, and the tremendous String and Brass Section under the direction of Fiona Brice (taking over from the late David Bedford).

To hear the songs developed into such acoustic gems really brought out the genius of both the lyric and music. Each one was exceptionally honed and a joy to experience.

I sat in the audience thinking back through those fifty years to the Roy of those small clubs in the sixties; a young man full of such spirit, driven by angst and fury and delivering songs of such venom, humour and tenderness. He was so original.

The anger was still evident in Hangman and Hors D’ Oeuvres. The tenderness was evident as well and the humour in the asides. Roy at seventy five has mastered his performances so totally that they have developed into something more. I crave for the passion, madness of those early days but you cannot deny the artistry that has gone into making these songs epic. There wasn’t one that did not work.

Don’t You Grieve, with the addition of Bill’s slide and the excellent slapping Double Bass from Beth Symmons created a great Skiffle sound that brought the song to life.

Hallucinating Light was superb with the horn and strings, with Bill’s slide guitar, adding a dimension that was different to that of Roy’s bands.

12 Hours of Sunset was different to any version I have heard before with Bill’s sustained notes adding a quality.

Time is Temporary, dedicated to Tracy who stood by him through thick and thin, was one of the new songs from Man and Myth that demonstrated Roy’s expertise at finger-picking.

For me it all came together with a version of the epic Me And My Woman that had it all – the perfect arrangement of strings, brass and Bill for Roy to play to. What a song. What scope. Who on Earth writes songs which encompass so much?

By the time Roy came back for an encore of When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease we were sated. The strings and brass came into their own and the performance was exemplary. The whole place rose to its feet and cheered.

We feared we might have lost him for good. But we haven’t. Roy is still there delivering something unique and exceptional. Nobody does it better. Nobody has produced songs of such beauty and magnitude. This man is England’s finest! It is about time he is recognised as our foremost Singer-Songwriter – up there with the likes of Dylan and Cohen.

The passion is undiminished, the skills still extant and the repertoire unparalleled. Roy is unique and still his own man. He does it his way!

Thank you Roy for another magic evening. I’m heading for Edinburgh for a second dose and looking forward to next year and another tour! You promised!