JOHN LEES’ BAR­CLAY JAMES HAR­VEST

The 50th An­niver­sary Con­cert ES­O­TERIC/LEPI­DOPTERA A beau­ti­ful record of 50 years of glory.

Prog - - Images & Wores - Rachel Mann

Dur­ing this ex­tra­or­di­nary con­cert’s encore, the band play an au­dio from April 14, 1968. It fea­tures John Peel in­tro­duc­ing Bar­clay James Har­vest’s first sin­gle, Early Morn­ing. Peel says, “This is their first record, and it won’t be their last. They’re go­ing on to do great things.”

Well, 50 years on, Peel’s point has been cer­tainly been proven a thou­sand times over.

Given Bar­clay James Har­vest’s gift for sym­phonic rock and their Man­cu­nian roots, the Royal North­ern Col­lege Of Mu­sic is the ideal set­ting for this cel­e­bra­tion of 50 years of

THE RAP­PORT AND DE­LIGHT BE­TWEEN BAND AND CROWD IS A WON­DER.

mu­sic mak­ing. Yet as the ever-witty bassist/vo­cal­ist Craig Fletcher points out, “This is not a con­cert, it’s a cel­e­bra­tion: you’re all fam­ily.”

It’s this sense of fam­ily that raises this record­ing be­yond usual con­cert footage. Let’s be clear, there is no at­tempt to use arty shots or cun­ning cross-cuts to make the film stand out. It re­lies on the qual­ity of the mu­sic and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the band­mem­bers and the au­di­ence to do its work. It’s all the bet­ter for that.

Given that it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of 50 years, there is mu­sic from ev­ery phase and in­car­na­tion of Bar­clay James Har­vest. Lees and co’s 2013 trib­ute to the late Woolly Wol­sten­holme, On Leave, is a match for any other tune in the set. Rightly, there is their song-for-the-ages, Mock­ing­bird, but this con­cert also con­tains stand-out ver­sions of The Poet/Af­ter the Day, Sum­mer Sol­dier and She Said. Rar­i­ties abound, in­clud­ing Delph Town Morn, In Mem­ory Of The Mar­tyrs and Paraiso Dos Cava­los.

The rap­port and de­light be­tween the band­mem­bers and the au­di­ence is a won­der to be­hold. In the shadow of Wol­sten­holme’s death, Craig Fletcher, Jez Smith and Kevin White­head have brought the very best out of Lees. This in­car­na­tion of Bar­clay James Har­vest has wit, north­ern warmth and deep re­spect for in­di­vid­ual band­mem­ber’s gifts. Lees says at one point that he feels like “A rab­bit in the head­lights.” In one sense, it’s a re­mark­able thing for a man who has played in front of mil­lions to say, yet it is also a to­ken of hu­mil­ity. The au­di­ence and the band adore him for it.

About half­way through, Jez Smith takes to the grand pi­ano and plays a mov­ing ver­sion of River Of Dreams. Lees sings, ‘When I was young man I was some­one’s hero…’ It’s an hon­est song about fame and money. This writer re­mem­bers how much in awe of Lees they were when they first saw Bar­clay James Har­vest as a child. He’s still a hero, but in a dif­fer­ent way. As Fletcher says, this con­cert records a fam­ily meet­ing to­gether in cel­e­bra­tion. Here’s to many more.

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