Nick Harper and Washington Irving - Two Top Shows
By Robert Nichols
Tuesday 03 Dec 2013 17:43:00
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This is the story of two gigs in two towns over two nights where the headliners gave absolutely everything and the audiences were completely bowled over. Nick Harper and Washington Irving were the performers and the venues either side of the river.

Nick harperNick Harper was making his first appearance in the intimate Green Room, Stockton. In many ways he was playing against all the odds, family matters meant it had been a very bad day. I don't know whether he had any fears or doubts before taking to the stage but Nick absolutely blitzed it. The southern based singer guitarist regaled us with an incredible performance that lasted well into the night, two hours in all, taking in much material from both the light and dark sides of his new album, “Riven” and fielding requests as well.

Beginning with “Blue Sky Thinking,” Harper squeezed his voice over the edge whilst his fingers flew across the frets of his guitar. He continually changed the tuning of the bottom string whilst playing, which had some of the audience whooping with disbelief. Nick Harper is an incredible acoustic guitar player with a style that takes folk, rock, country and blues into whole new dangerous areas. In fact he confessed to having almost wrecked his instrument the night before. Nick Harper mines a rich seem of nostalgia taking in clackers in the attic but is firmly in the present when he locks targets on “The Incredible Melting Man” of British politics. An awe inspiring cover of Pink Floyd's “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” took us into encore country. We were at take off and beyond for “By My Rocket Comes Fire.” Nick knew he was amongst friends and promised he would be back again soon.

The Westgarth was the setting for the home from home coming of Scottish troubadours Washington Irving. Palace delivered a sterling support slot, rippling, ringing guitars speaking of a growing maturity from the young Hartlepool band.

“We played London last night,” announced the Washington Irving singer, “so nice to get to a proper town.” It was the start of a memorable night when audience and band really hit it off. Washington  Irving have played here many times before and fallen in love with Teesside and the feeling is mutual. This time they were back to headline on a Saturday night.

The Celtic Tornado swept through the Westgarth and gathered us all up into its wondrous wake. We didn't want to let it blow out and roared them back for encore after encore. Songs that twist and build to dramatic choruses, the singer plunging, playing into the heart and hearts of the crowd. Then the music is stilled to a hush the voice unaccompanied in the eye of the storm before quickly being overcome by the tumultuous waves of full on music making. Magical.



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