Roy Harper

UEA, Norwich

> UEA, Norwich

This might best be described as an up and down performance, but the ups made it worth the asking price.

The veteran acoustic guitarist and songwriter, who was memorably celebrated by Led Zeppelin in their song Hats Off to (Roy) Harper , showed he still knows how to weave a beautiful and intricate tune.

The fact that he still undoubtedly retains that flair and ability made it all the more frustrating when he chose not to use it. Firstly there was the fact that the between-song patter often lasted as long as the songs themselves. And the songs aren't short. Sure, he's often funny but we were there to hear the music - but then again, a little too much of the music veered towards the sombre and obscure.

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With his sweep of white hair and beard, Harper has the air of a mystical wizard, an impression reinforced by the cryptic ramblings - many of them admittedly very entertaining - that interspersed the set.

When he picked up the pace, steered clear of making pronouncements on religion and the failings of Tony Blair and delivered his witty and eccentric numbers, the gig came alive. Feeling All Saturday particularly lightened the mood. When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease, dedicated to the “boys of summer” who won the Ashes, was tuneful and thoughtful - with a typical Harper play on words lending a strange poignancy to the phrase “silly mid on”.

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Second guitar came from Matt Churchill, who also gave a stunning support set of instrumentals that showcased a highly unorthodox but scintillating playing technique, and was short on chat, big on music. Perhaps his boss should take note.

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