Roy Harper at Bridgewater Hall
I've been listening to Roy's music for years: originally, I read an article in a guitar magazine, and then heard down the grapevine about his live peformance, and I thought it sounded fun. This all happened when I was about to go to university. It was this collection of circumstances that has meant that Roy had a formative place in my musical upbringing. I bought a copy of his album Once, and shortly after saw him play live. Before this, my life music had been limited to blues in the local pubs; Roy was the first "real" gig that I saw live.
After this, Roy along with John Martyn [@url:www.russet.org.uk/blog/667] (who was responsible for the second real gig I went to), became a regular. I would see him play every year or two, I bought a lot of his back catalogue and listened to it often.
As time has moved on, Roy has got older and tours rarely now; I last saw him in 2010 (as support for Joanna Newsome). And I listen to his music much less, largely because I listen to music much less. I decided to go down south, therefore, partly for old-time sake. I wanted to hear him live again.
Despite the passing of the years, he remains fantastic: he voice still has a grandeur and sweep to it. His songs are passionate, moving and his lyrics poetic. Over time, of course, his performance has changed: no longer the distorted guitar, nor using his mic stand as a slide, the full "One Man Rock and Roll Band". His first song was about reminiscance, and this was perhaps appropriate; the strongest of his music is now in his gentler, more melancholic, quieter songs.
The strange thing about the gig, though, was my reaction. When he started to talk about the next song, I would often recognise bits of the intro, but then could not remember the song associated with it. But when he started playing, I knew the tune, and the words, sometimes without remembering what the song was called, it would slowly uncover in my mind.
Music is part of life. It has always evoked many emotions: the excitement when you discover new music, the passion when you listen it repeatedly, the sense of dislocation when the music lifts you away from yourself and takes you to a different place. Of course, it is not just Roy getting older: I am about the same age now as Roy would have been when I first saw him. Music can be many things, but now, as I age, I find a new emotion: the pleasure of association, with music that I have heard and changed with over time. I have learned it so well that, even where I cannot remember it, I will never forget it entirely. In that sense, it has become and will remain a part of me.