“When a old cricketer leaves the crease, you never know whether he’s done” teased Roy Harper at this sold out, Philharmonic Hall concert. He then announced that his six date tour is to be his retirement parade. Now Roy has got history regarding farewell tours, but tonight’s gig felt like a finale. At the age of 77 (78 this year), he informed the audience he wanted to retire whilst he had a choice.
Complete with full band, consisting of violin, trumpet, bass and electric guitars, drums, keyboard and cello, plus Roy’s own three guitars, he appeared revived throughout, occasionally forgetting words, verses, even choruses. The audience forgave his fragility, even during his many monologues, which started at the end, got muddled in the middle and failed to reach a conclusion at the beginning!!! It all made sense to Roy I imagine. But this Roy Harper concert was his domain, and rightly so. The deep emotional vibe was lingering, and when Roy gently performed “Another Day”, it was all too much for one Glasgow lady, who cried throughout the tender rendition, telling me “It’s the most beautiful love song ever” in her soft Glaswegian tone. It was her turn to support me when “Cricketer” was performed, and when the trumpet solo started, I melted into my seat and disappeared into a deep emotional meditation, only resurfacing when Roy’s vocals kicked in again. The gig was developing into that sort of occasion.
Being Roy, playing by his own rules, he previewed two new songs, “Man in a glass cage” and a anti Daily Mirror rant, attacking the media’s treatment over his alleged sexual abuse claims. Cleared of all charges he is still angry and protesting at 77, that’s Roy. Another highlight was “McGoohan’s Blues”, and when he struggled to remember all the words, once again, the audience forgave him.
The subtlety throughout the concert, with feather like tones, tickling the songs into a trance like state, whilst forgetting his words, Roy merely added to his likeable persona and human frailty. But he still remained calm and sharp to combat a vocal crowd while treating the audience to one of his wandering tales, without a complete ending, never forgetting showbiz rule number one “Always leave the crowd wanting more”. Sadly tonight could be his farewell Liverpool gig, with tales unfinished and songs incomplete.
If this is to be Roy’s last tour, and that’s a big IF, then he can be proud of himself. Roy performed the best he could tonight, his underrated voice, in whatever octave he dictated, was masterful. The controlled and the talented band gave Roy a musical boost that deservedly earned them both a standing ovation. It was a privilege to witness an artist of immense quality and talent. If Roy is finally “leaving the crease”, then this was a well deserved and memorable thank you, and a beautiful and emotional farewell Mr Harper.
But I feel the final words, must belong to my emotional Glaswegian lady, sitting next to me, watching Roy for the first time. When she noticed I was taking notes, she told me to write this down and include it in the review; her version of the concert:
“EXQUISITE MELANCHOLY WITH A EUPHORIA THAT COUNTERS THE MELANCHOLY.”
I don’t know exactly what it means, but it meant something to her and that’s all that matters.