There are so many 70s bands on the road with just one or two original members nowadays that the dividing line between an original band and a tribute act is getting just a little blurred. To take a random example, is a Thin Lizzy fronted by Jon Sykes really worthy of the name?
Both Barclay James Harvest and Asia are down to just one original member, bassist and vocalist Les Holroyd in the case of BJH, and ex-Buggles keyboardist Geoff Downes in the case of Asia. (To confuse things further, there are now two competing BJHs on the gig circuit!) Are they really 'genuine' bands? And how much does it really matter anyway? The Academy 2 in Manchester on Friday 18th March 2005 was the place to find out.
Dare were the first of the three bands on the bill, playing a brief 30 minute set to warm up the audience for the double headliners. The set started with an awful muddy sound mix, although thankfully it got better after the first couple of numbers. To be honest, Dare never really rose about the level of a pub-rock band, which probably explains why they've never had much success even though they've been around for years. Nothing spectacularly bad about them; the playing was competent, but with one or two exceptions, most of the AOR-ish songs were rather ordinary.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from BJH. I'm only familiar with one of their albums, the live one recorded in Berlin twenty years ago. Sadly they played all of one song from it. The numbers they did play, which I gather was a mix of some songs from their 70s heyday and some much newer material was more guitar-driven than I expected. In an interview Les Holroyd had stated that the setlist concentrates on songs he had written, which confirmed the impression I was getting; this was not so much Barclay James Harvest, as Les Holroyd plus a bunch of anonymous session musos. They were musically competent, I have to say, especially guitarist Michael Byron-Hehir. They just didn't seem that tight as a band, and too much of the material sounded the same, and came over flat and uninspired. The biggest single flaw was Les' vocals, desperately weak in places.