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!

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