Gig review: Nick Harper in Rothesay

Nick Harper in full flow at Craigmore Bowling Club in Rothesay.
Nick Harper in full flow at Craigmore Bowling Club in Rothesay.

Nick Harper’s impressive musical pedigree – son of legendary folkie and ‘bona fide rock loon’ (apparently) Roy Harper and one-time bandmate of Glenn Tilbrook in Squeeze, to name but two – means he has quite a billing to live up to.

But if his latest Bute gig, at Craigmore Bowling Club in Rothesay, is anything to go by, he’s still more than capable of living up to that reputation – and of continuing to carve the shape of a musical niche that’s all his own.

Harper junior – and that’s the last time we’ll refer to him as such, for he has, after all, been performing in his own right for nearly 20 years, which is more than long enough to emerge from the longest of shadows – began his Craigmore gig with There Is No Truth Up In The Mountains, a song whose title he may well seek to distance himself from in the light of his fund-raising treks to Everest Base Camp and Mount Kilimanjaro with the LoveHopeStrength Foundation in 2007 and 2009.

As well as being a highly accomplished singer and songwriter, Harper is also a hugely talented instrumentalist, capable of coaxing the most glorious of sounds from the apparently humblest of guitars and able to turn his hand to a bewildering mix of musical genres.

He can do politics, too, in both its positive and negative guises: a paean to the popular left-wing Bolivian president Evo Morales, whose first act on winning office was to cut the size of his own wage by half, was followed by The Incredible Melting Man, revelling in the misfortune of an (un-named) English politician “whose career is coming to a sorry end”.

The Juicy Fruit Girl, a glorious feat of verbal dexterity (“she used to chew it all day long, and if she kissed you she used to slip it up beside her gum – yum yum!”), contrasted sharply with the angry chords of The Story of My Heart, while there were also tributes to Harper’s mother - “not always the quiet one to my father’s wild rocker reputation” - and his girlfriend, for staying at home to mind the kids while their dad is out touring. (“Again.”)

Support from Gavin Moore and Natalie Masterton, both making welcome returns to the Bute stage, added to a memorable evening, while Harper’s encore, Treasure Island, provided a fitting encore to a set which included more than one brief pause to pay tribute to Bute’s spectacular scenery – although the title could just as easily be taken as a nod to the rich variety of live music being enjoyed by audiences on the island at present.