- Miles Hedley
NICK HARPER at Mycenae House
Fifty years ago Nick Harper was a four-year-old boy living with his parents in a one-bedroom flat at 58 Fordwych Road in Kilburn. But this was no ordinary home because his dad is folk music legend Roy and the address became a meeting place for some of the genre’s greatest icons, including Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Sandy Denny,
This amazing heritage helped turn Nick into an icon of the next generation of folkies and today he is revered as one of its greatest exponents. And he showed why with a sensational gig at Mycenae House which included stories of being used as a pre-teen drugs mule by his father, singing Baa Baa Black Sheep at Soho folk club Les Cousins – possibly with Jimi Hendrix in the audience - and a terrific running gag about Alan-a-Dale.
Standing in front of a poster celebrating the Kilburn flat and its regular visitors, Harper played – brilliantly - compositions by all the astounding talents who had crossed his childhood path. It’s to his eternal credit that he matched every one of them for musicianship and stagecraft.
He opened with Graham’s take on the Lead Belly classic Leavin’ Blues before giving us a dazzling rendition of Graham’s Angie. His tribute to Jansch was a wonderful version of Blackwaterside whilst he recreated the gorgeous playing of Renbourn with the latter’s arrangement of the 16th century pavane The Earle Of Salisbury.
Songs by two American visitors also made the cut - Paul Simon’s lovely Scarborough Fair, learnt from Martin Carthy, and Jackson C Frank’s glorious Blues Run The Game which Nick graced with some of the finest falsetto singing I’ve ever heard.
Frank was close to Harper Snr and Nick played My Friend, his dad’s moving tribute to their relationship. He rounded off the Kilburn reminiscences with a lovely version of Denny’s extraordinary anthem Who Knows Where The Time Goes.
The second part of Harper’s set was given over to his own songs, including the beautiful ballad Blood Song for his daughter and the jaunty Juicy Fruit Girl about his lust-crazed 13-year-old self. He rounded off the gig with three fabulous covers – Prince’s Purple Rain, Monty Python’s Galaxy Song and Henry Mancini’s Moon River, which had been a 1961 smash for Danny Williams, another Fordwych Road regular.
The gig, organised by south-east London’s Sonic Promotions, had begun with an eight-song set by Leon Tilbrook, the singer-songwriter son of Squeeze frontman Glenn. Leon supplemented his own excellent compositions – including Retrospect, High Expectations, I Can’t Help Myself and One Time – with a fine cover of a The Stripes’ Mystery Man and, best of all, Peter Green’s Oh Well.