Photo courtesy Bob King (copyright)
It was a bittersweet occasion… the Gimme That Guitar Concert – a Tribute to Harvey James, held at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre last month, on an incredibly hot summer’s night, honoured one of Australia’s best and most loved musicians. The guitarist had planned to perform at this show, just as he had done with remarkable strength and endurance, at a previous benefit in his honour in Melbourne last November. James had poured his heart and soul into getting the second benefit concert off the ground, and would have been supremely satisfied with the results. Fellow musicians and friends rallied together to put on a show that would see some of the country’s greatest bands perform to raise money for cancer research and for Harvey’s family. Sadly, Harvey lost his battle with lung cancer on 15th January, just over a month before the concert was scheduled to take place. But, as Harvey would have wanted it, the decision was made to go ‘on with the show’ and the concert went ahead as a tribute to the man who made it all happen.
Renowned Sherbet fan, comedian Libbi Gorr aka Elle McFeast, was the MC for the evening. Complete with a pink feather boa draped around her neck, she was clearly in her element, especially when it came to introducing Sherbet at the end of the show.
The night kicked off with young Sydney band, The Lazy Flies, who played a set of 60s and 70s covers by some of Harvey’s favourite bands including The Small Faces and Badfinger. Lead guitarist, John Sans, also had the great honour of stepping into Harvey’s role in Sherbet later in the night. Not an easy task for anyone under the circumstances but Sans did a fantastic job filling this most privileged spot.
The line up that followed was impressive to say the least: Kevin Borich, Swanee, Lindsay Wells, Jon English, Leo Sayer, Ian Moss, Richard Clapton, Dragon and, of course, Sherbet. Leo Sayer was a last minute replacement for Renee Geyer who was unfortunately unable to perform on the night.
All the artists were chosen by Harvey himself and he had played with many of them at one time or another throughout his career and every one, a master of their craft and simply at their best on the night.
Swanee joined Lindsay Wells on stage, to sing a great rendition of Healing Force‘s ‘Golden Miles’, a favourite of Harvey’s and a special dedication to him.
It was, however, Sherbet the crowd was waiting for and the guys didn’t disappoint their fans. The band launched into the moody ‘Blueswalkin’ with Garth taking over vocals on ‘Matter of Time’, and then drifted back further in time with ‘Cassandra’, ‘You’ve Got the Gun’ and ‘Wishing Well’, originally recorded by U.K. band Free, another of Harvey’s favourites, and covered by Sherbet. Sadly, of course, one very important member was missing from the band but, in addition to John Sans on guitar, Harvey’s eldest son, Gabe, took to the stage to join the guys on their 1981 hit, ‘I Have the Skill’. Gabe’s younger brother, Josh, stepped up to join them on stage for the classic ‘Howzat’, the song for which their father is probably best known, thanks to some rather creative and impressive guitar work. They closed the set with the very bouncy ‘Summer Love’, amidst a shower of confetti and brightly coloured inflated beach balls filling the room.
After reading out a three-page thank you to everyone involved in putting the concert together, Daryl called all the other artists back on to the stage for the finale…definitely the highlight of the show. Everyone shared the stage for a highly emotive rendition of ‘A Little Help From My Friends’, which Harvey had specifically requested, and I’m sure he would have been greatly humbled to know that he had so many and all of them ready and willing to give their time and talent in the name of friendship.
The evening ended with another thank you, this time from Harvey’s three children, Gabe, Alexandra and Joshua, who all came to the stage to express their gratitude and appreciation for the overwhelming support shown by everyone who attended the concert to pay tribute to their father…
I think it’s only fair and fitting that we give space here to some of the many musicians who were there to perform on the night and hear what they have to say about the concert and what it meant to them to be playing in support of their old friend…
Kevin Borich has shared a long history with Harvey and has a lot of fond memories of those times.
I crossed paths with Harvey many, many times over the years. When he was with Sherbet, my band The Kevin Borich Express, did tours with them doing the support spot and I really enjoyed those shows because the Sherbet boys were great people to be touring with and I really loved Harvey’s playing and sound.
Later in the first Party Boys album, we toured playing together, which was an amazingly instinctive exercise for us because we seemed to just fit together so well. I think it was the mutual respect we had for each other that made it so easy, plus we enjoyed hanging out together and having fun and that’s what makes the real joy shine.
I loved the Tribute show – I played a song Called “Fight On”, the song I wrote when I picked up the guitar for the first time after recuperating from my cancer treatment. We’d shared our cancer experience through many emails: the feelings, emotions and fears we were sharing are in that song, so I was very emotional singing it that night.
What a wonderful Tribute it was to Harvey, all his fellow musicians giving their all in spirited performances for a great man and musician.
A pleasure to have rocked with you Harv – see you in the cosmic soup, Kevin
John Swan and Harvey had a long and close friendship so, to be a part of this concert in his friend’s honour was very special indeed.
I personally loved the whole benefit thing with the concert for Harvey. We were very close over 40 odd years and I learnt lots from him. The day itself was fantastic. From a friend’s perspective, I just say there were outpourings of love and trust. Everyone there was great at his or her job, so I knew things would run smoothly. Being back stage was really like our gigs together in the old days. Everyone there was a friend, who knew what had to be done, but was cool enough to say ‘Lets have a laugh.’
In fact, I know Harvey would have loved it. Harvey and I spoke regularly, in fact more since he discovered he was sick. He was a very brave human being. He was also such a funny lad. We got each other’s sense of humour so there were no boundaries.
I spoke to him about the Healing Force song ‘Golden Miles’. Harvey, like I, was a big fan. When he died, one of the first calls I got was from the beautiful Lindsay Wells. He just said ‘Would you sing it?’ It was like my childhood had come back to me. He said ‘That song you loved so much —you will sing as a dedication to your good friend.’ This moved me like I can’t begin to explain. I really loved Harvey James. He was my pal. Those who know me know what that means.
I won’t go on and on, but the show was sensational. Sherbet just blew me away. They went to a level I haven’t seen them rise to collectively. This was remarkable. We all did our best and went out with Harvey on our minds and in our hearts.
Then the encore with all the chaps clowning and performing like the pros they really are. I personally was one happy man, knowing that Harvey’s boys, Gabe and Josh, had done their dad proud and his beautiful daughter, Alex, was up there giving her love to her dad on his stage. Yeah, I shed a tear but these where tears of joy and friendship at the closing of that show.
Harvey would have just been proud of it all!!!!!!!!!!
Let me just say that the audience was like nothing I have played before — they came, they gave, they showed that a life in the service of rock and roll was a worthy journey and that the happiness we had was received by those who shared that common love. Thank you my friend, Harvey James. Thank you to my fellow performers — thank you to the audience. And thank God I was blessed with Rock and Roll in my life!!!
I flew home to Adelaide with a heart full of more memories and love, with respect for all who came, saw and kicked arse in the name of friendship………………………….
And last but most definitely not least, another old friend who was very eager to be a part of the Tribute concert for Harvey, was fellow Sherbet member, Tony Mitchell. Tony also played alongside Harv at the Gimme That Guitar benefit in Melbourne last November.
About the Enmore benefit for Harv… What a great night! Obviously we missed him, not having him there but I’m sure he was watching from upstairs. He would have been proud of his family and all of his muso mates. We all pulled together to make it a wonderful night. So many fantastic artists all played their hearts out for about 4 hours of kick arse rock and roll. Wow! Very impressive!
The organisation of Natalie Harker, Peter Patterson and Garth Porter was nothing short of miraculous and gut wrenching hard work. If you could imagine how difficult it is to put something together like this. Wow! What a job! It was great to play with the Sherbs boys again, especially John Sans, the fab guitar player who filled in for Harv. It was a bit daunting for him. He did a lot of homework to do for this gig. Hats off to him. What a great job he did!
It was excellent to have Gabe, Josh and Alex, Harv’s kids, on stage with us as well, their heads held high for their dad. Well done! Very proud indeed! A lot of money was raised for Harv’s family, plus a nice cheque for the cancer clinic as well.
As Swanee said to Harv: ‘It’ll be loud! Just the way you wanted it to be!’ and big and loud it was. Anyway, all good things, at some stage, must come to an end and for our mate Harvey, all too soon. We’re gonna miss him as the days go by but we will never forget him. Thanks for the music and friendship. Bless all for a wonderful night!
Lots of love,
Tony Mitchell xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
The Gimme That Guitar Tribute concert for Harvey James was said by many people there to be the ‘concert of the decade’! It was certainly a very special night, with an outstanding line up of artists giving their all in support of their very dear friend, Harvey James, who lost his very courageous battle with lung cancer in January this year.
Harvey’s former band mates, Tony Mitchell, Garth Porter, Alan Sandow and Daryl Braithwaite reformed Sherbet for the occasion, sadly, of course without their guitarist by their side. John Sans, lead guitarist of The Lazy Flies, took Harvey’s place on the night but the band was also more than ably assisted by two extra and very special guitarists – Harvey’s sons Gabe and Josh. So what was it like to play with the band that made their father a legend in the Australian music industry?
“It’s very hard to describe,” says Gabe “but the one word that comes close is ‘amazing’. To stand in my dad’s shoes for 15 minutes was, and will continue to be, the most memorable 15 minutes of my life. It’s very hard to document in words, but I got a feeling of what it was like for him to play in front of that many people and understood why he loved it so much.
The Sherbet guys were so welcoming of myself and my brother to get up there in honour of our old man, and couldn’t have made us feel any more welcome on that stage and in that rehearsal room. It was very surreal to be rehearsing guitar licks to Sherbet videos on ‘you tube’ one day, and standing in a room, playing the same songs with the same guys the next day. Hope they all had as much fun as we did when we were up there, because it’s something that we will never forget. Not everybody gets to jam with a group that has such a history in Australian music. Even to this day, it still feels surreal and is something I’m very appreciative of. I know Dad would have seen us up there and been proud as punch. Hopefully as proud of us as we are proud to be his kids, Alexandra included. The fact that we were up there in honour of him, playing his riffs, is so amazing, a mixture of pride and sadness I guess. All in all, I’m so happy to have done that for my dad, and I know he would be happy too.”
Learning the songs must have been a hard task, especially given the limited time frame before the concert. How did you cope with that?
“It wasn’t too bad.” Gabe explains. “Thankfully, I had a bit of help from my good mate, Guy Mallaby from Guitar Guru, who helped me work out a few things. I originally had the option to play the whole set but, unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to learn all the songs in the short amount of time I had, so I chose to play just the 3 and focus all my energy on those and get them nice and tight, instead of trying to cram too many guitar riffs and progressions into my head at once. That’s why I admire John Sans (guitarist of The Lazy Flies) who also filled in for Dad. Poor guy had to learn the whole set in a few days and did a fantastic job might I add (and a fantastic guy to boot). It was especially surreal to play ‘The Skill’ with the guys, as that was one of Dad’s favourite songs and they hadn’t played it since before I was even born. Luckily, I spent so much time jamming to the tune at home, as we started rehearsing it, Tony asked me how the riffs went and I had to refresh his memory. Ha hah!
Gabe said that it felt ‘surreal’ to play to a theatre packed with people who were all there in support of his father. “It still hasn’t sunk in properly and the gig was a month ago. It was amazing to see the amount of support my dad had at his benefit gig last November and this gig was, amazingly, five times the size. The Melbourne gig was such an intimate night with Dad and he had such a great time up there doing his thing and the support there really brought a smile onto not just his face, but his soul. He couldn’t sleep that night because he was on such a natural buzz and so happy about how well the night went, I couldn’t imagine how happy he would be seeing what happened at the Enmore Theatre that night I think, if that night happened for any of us, we would all be amazed. He would be very content with the mark he left with so many people. It really opened our eyes to see how much of an impact he made within his career. Amazing stuff.”
There were definitely many great and memorable moments that night but Gabe is quite clear on what stands out the most in his mind.
“The highlights of the night,” he says, “were playing with Sherbet and standing up in front of all those people declaring how proud I am of my dad. The amount of hard work everyone put into making that night happen is absolutely amazing. The fact that musicians flew in from all parts of the country to make the night happen without asking for payment just in respect of my dad is something that makes you so proud that words can’t describe. A definite highlight for me was seeing the impact my dad had on so many people just from doing what he loves. Seeing a line for the merchandise table to buy tee shirts with my dad’s photo on them was pretty amazing!
“The sheer volume of people who attended the gig, the amount of support us three kids were shown, the cool stories that musos shared with us backstage of my dad, seeing old friends reunite. It was just a fantastic night and was a great celebration of who my dad was. I am so very thankful to everyone involved. Such kind hearted, genuine people. You all have some great karma coming your way, as I believe people who are kind to others only deserve kindness in return.”
The build up to the concert was quite intense and there must have been a certain amount of pressure to ensure the night’s proceedings lived up to some rather high expectations. It is certainly a credit to everyone involved that it did just that, as Gabe confirms. “The night exceeded all expectations. As I said on the night, it’s exactly what our dad wanted. He wanted loud guitars, his mates surrounding each other and more loud guitars. As I was doing sound check, the sound engineer yelled at me ‘If you’re going to play that loud, you’re not going through the PA.’ So I guess I took his words too literally! Ha hah! It not only exceeded our expectations but I genuinely think it would have exceeded our dad’s expectations as well. You couldn’t really expect more than what it was because the night was such a magical night, shared with awesome musicians and a room filled with love. He would be so proud of everyone involved.”
Gabe would like to extend a warm thank you to all the people who worked so tirelessly on this event. “To everyone who worked on the concert with us, and with Dad while he was still around, a very genuine thank you! We are so grateful, it’s beyond words. Everyone who made the night happen did not charge a cent and did it out of the kindness of their heart and respect for Dad. It’s amazing to see that amount of people all band together to do something so positive and uplifting. It gives us a great sense of humanity to see that people as kind as you exist. You have all given us something to smile about in such a hard time. It really softened the blow of losing our father and it has created some unforgettable memories. It has really forged a legacy for my father and was no doubt a great moment in Australian music history. Thank you all so much, although I feel that nothing we write can genuinely express how thankful we are. A very special thank you goes out to Garth Porter, Natalie Harker, Peter Paterson at Perfect Pitch Publishing, Debbie Kruger, Anita Monk and Anita Sulcs at Wrok Down, Margaret at Fender, Sharyn Hamey, Garry Brokenshire and every single musician who played at both shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Without all of you, Dad’s wishes wouldn’t have come true. Thank you for all your amazing support. We admire you so much.”
Of course, there would be no show without the audience. “And to all the fans that attended, thank you for the amount of love and energy you put in the room that night. You made it a night to remember and without you all there, it would have been nothing. Thank you to everyone who gave us kids gifts, stood up for 6 hours straight in 45 degrees heat, sticking to the person next to you. You made it the night my dad wanted. It’s so heartwarming to see the amount of people that attended. To look out and see a sea of faces all there to honour my dad is so touching, I want to go back and do it all over again. I hope you all had a fantastic time because we surely did! And we know Dad would have too.”
“The night meant to us a way of honouring and saying goodbye to Dad. Not necessarily a goodbye, as he is with us every day but, somewhat, a way of honouring him by making the show go ahead as he would have wanted. Playing guitar was his passion from a young age and what a way to remember him! It meant a great night of family and friends bonding together to create a night attached to our memory of him. He said in his own words that the music he created would make sure he is remembered after he is gone and this night made sure of it. It wasn’t just a night in memory of his musicianship but a night in memory of a funny, gentle, carefree guy who created some great memories for those that were close to him. I hope you were watching Dad. That one was for you! xxx “
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2011. All rights reserved
To view more of Bob King’s photos of the Gimme That Guitar concert, visit his website www.bobking.com.au