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Roy Harper UK Tour - Review

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
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Legendary Folk Singer Celebrates 75th Birthday In Style
He has a guitar older than most other performers, which has been travelling with him throughout his incredible 50-year career. And it made yet another live stage appearance when Roy Harper, now aged 75, came out of 'retirement' to play at Birmingham's Symphony Hall as part of his 75th birthday celebrations.

Roy Harper
Roy Harper back on stage to celebrate his 75th birthday

Manchester-born Roy has been a folk musician, singer and songwriter since 1964, since when he has released 22 studio albums plus a further ten live releases. But it took him until 2013 to receive due recognition with a long overdue Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. I first saw Roy perform during the heady folk festival days of the 1970s. And I am happy to say his wonderfully distinctive vocal style has not diminished over the years despite his voice becoming unavoidably 'older' with time.

Roy Harper
Roy performing in 2010. By Man Alive! - Flickr: Roy Harper, CC BY 2.0,

Roy, whose musical influence has been acknowledged by the likes of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, is returning to the stage to perform just four concerts in Birmingham, Manchester, London and Edinburgh to celebrate his 75th birthday. He seemed to be having one or two 'senior moments' during the first of these special gigs which Roy put down to "teething problems". These included singing the wrong lyric, knocking his drink over, and breaking a guitar string.

Symphony Hall
Symphony Hall. Photo Mike Gutteridge

Backed by an eight-piece string and brass ensemble he began by immediately launching into Commune from his 1974 album Valentine. But then he went full circle by following up with January Man from his latest release, Man and Myth, which was released in September 2013 - his first studio album for 13 years and an amazing 47 years after his debut release, Sophisticated Beggar.

With such a huge backlog it was impossible to please everyone, but I was delighted to hear him perform classic favourite Hors D'oeuvres from his 1971 album, Stormcock, together with the Bob Dylan-penned Girl From The North Country, which also appeared on his Valentine album. Other delightful offerings included I'll See You Again, which he actually sang twice due to the string-breaking incident midway through the first attempt, and the Nelson Mandela tribute, South Africa, which fully displayed his still sublime guitar playing.

Rating: 7/10

Other dates

Sep 9 Manchester, Bridgewater Hall
Sep 12 London, Royal Festival Hall
Sep 17 Edinburgh, Usher Hall
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Why? Legendary Folk Singer Continues To Fly High
When: 7 September to 17 September
Phone: 0121 780 3333
Where: Symphony Hall, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EA
Cost: Tickets £28-£48
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