Roy Harper, 100 Club, London

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The Independent Culture

With his twinkling eyes, silver beard, tightly buttoned shirt and hippie trousers, Harper looked somewhere between a science teacher and my idea of Homer. The first half began with "Tom Tiddler's Ground", a love song of "long before Eden was lost and found", a line that Harper took delight in. It's a habit of his to quote lyrics from his songs, and this, allied to his lengthy anecdotes, can get wearing.

But the music was spellbinding. Harper sat, his left foot on a delay pedal connected to his voice, which harmonised with its own echoes, the trademark vibrato adding to its hypnotic texture. It is Harper's main asset, especially in songs that can sound similar (following one number, after a welter of vocal echo and guitar-hammering, he admitted "at the end there I could have gone into every song I ever wrote").

Standouts in the first half included "Frozen Moment" and a recent, vehemently anti-war and anti-religion, epic, "The Death of God". This he prefaced with an atheist polemic that drew cheers from some but resolute silence from others. He also did the notorious ditty "Watford Gap", a much more focused attack, this time on 1970s motorway food.

The second half began with another digression, this time a moan about how EMI didn't promote 1971's Stormcock, before he played its four longish tracks. The second of them, "The Same Old Rock", featured fabulous lead lines from Matt Churchill on a second guitar that most of the time blended seamlessly into Harper's playing. Churchill, appropriately, didn't play on "One Man Rock and Roll Band", another anti-war homily in which Harper hammered, pulled, stroked and wrung the neck of his guitar to extraordinary effect. "I was sailing the Atlantic on that one," he admitted.

He encored with the beautiful "Another Day"; or, rather, he didn't. He couldn't resist a final chat with the audience. Some things never change.

Roy Harper plays the 100 Club again on Thursday and Friday (www.the100club.co.uk)

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