Nick Harper at The Back Room, Cottingham 15 October 2021 My first foray as a gig-goer in the post-lockdown period was a visit to the lovely Back Room in Cottingham, which has been refurbished by owner and guitar hero Paul Sutton. It was most heart-warming to see that the venue has been treated to a high-quality makeover and that Paul has committed himself to continuing to provide a classy small venue in our locale.I first found out about Nick Harper through my friends and bandmates Rich and Lou Duffy-Howard, who have been promoting gigs for Nick in these parts for many years now. Rich would often tell me that Nick was coming to Hull and that I ought to see him. Foolishly, I never did, until Loudhailer Electric Co were offered a chance to support the great man at the Masonic Hall, Filey, as part of the town’s Folk Festival in May 2017.To say that Nick blew me away is an understatement; I immediately berated myself for having missed several past chances to catch him in action and resolved that whenever possible I would be at his future gigs in our area. Since then we had the good fortune to support him again, this time at Hull’s Adelphi, when he appeared with the Wilderness Kids to promote the album Lies, Lies, Lies in December 2017. This was another revelation, hearing him play electric guitar in a band setting with the superb material from his current record interspersed with career highlights.Further sightings were at the much-missed Kardomah in March 2018, and a further Leco support at O’Riley’s in April 2019 as part of his 58 Fordwych Road tour. Then, the world changed and for a while it looked like live gigs were a thing of the past; I was vexed. But then, another tour was mooted and once again Rich and Lou brought about a visit to our area from this elemental performer.Words like “amazing” and “awesome” have become so devalued in popular culture as they are employed to describe what are actually quite mundane things (“I went to the shops today”; “wow, that’s awesome!”), that I hesitate to use them in connection with Nick’s endeavours. I know he is also uncomfortable with the word “genius” but all three of these words can easily (and accurately) be applied to the man. To be a brilliant guitarist is fairly commonplace, and there are plenty of brilliant vocalists. There are also many brilliant songwriters and performers. However, to find brilliance in all four of these areas in one person is actually quite rare. Nick has brilliance in everything he does, whether it be his virtuoso guitar playing, his mind-blowing vocal dexterity and range, his incisive and intricately-crafted songs, or his masterful relationship with his audience. He is a consummate performer in every sense of the word and I feel privileged every time I get to sit and watch him do his stuff.His appearance at the Back Room was another tour-de-force, a bravura performance containing many spine-tingling moments. The set included the usual mix of fan favourites (he responded to audience requests), personal favourites and new material. Despite an obvious throat problem he was never less than superb, played for two hours plus without a break and treated an attentive audience to a heady mixture of glorious music and stand-up comedy. I know he won’t thank me for this, but in my book, he’s a genius. I can’t wait until the next opportunity to see him presents itself. Thanks again to Rich and Lou for bringing him to East Yorkshire, and to Paul Sutton for providing us with his superb venue and wonderful hospitality.
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