JOHN LEES’ BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST
The Stables, Wavendon - 31st October 2006
John Lees and Stuart Wolstenholme used to make up one half of Barclay James Harvest.
For any lovers of fractions reading this, they are nowadays only two fifths of one half as Lees and another founder member, Les Holroyd, lead separate versions of the band.
The division isn’t a problem for me as the majority of my favourite BJH songs were written by Lees and 30 years on from when I first saw them, he was in good voice and playing guitar as well as ever.
More bank manager than rock musician with his smart trousers, polished shoes, white shirt and tie, Lees cut a serious figure on stage. It didn’t look like fun for him.
|Barclay James Harvest then|
That may be misleading, but it was left to the tall, bespectacled Wolstenholme - think slightly eccentric teacher taking a night off from marking essays - to interact with the audience by offering an occasional bit of self deprecating humour between songs.
The current tour is the Lees version of BJH’s first for five years, but there weren’t too many signs of rust during a set which mixed fan favourites like Mockingbird and Medicine Man with more obscure numbers like Poor Wages, the B-side of a 1969 single.
Some songs have an obvious contemporary relevance with the powerful For No One, Child of the Universe and Cheap the Bullet asking awkward questions about the morality of war.
The first two have an anthemic feel, as did In Search of England, which was written and sung by Wolstenholme and featured his mellotron and other assorted keyboards which are so crucial to the band‘s overall sound.
Galadriel, by contrast, stood out for its delicacy of touch before Lees took up the haunting, melodic intro to Suicide? - yes, there should be a question mark - which is a song I have never tired of hearing.
Measured, precise and rarely flashy, he has a style and tone which is unmistakable and carries the song’s emotional weight before its 'did he jump or was he pushed' climax.
Another up tempo number, perhaps Psychedelic Child or Loving Is Easy, would have added welcome variety to the set-list and there was no sign of any new material but those are minor personal quibbles.
After such a long absence, it was great to welcome the Harvest home.