Berlin: A Concert For The People

Barclay James Harvest

Barclay James Harvest is a British band that made its reputation mainly in Europe. England, Spain, Switzerland and Germany are countries where the band could attract monster-size crowds to their concerts. When they performed in the late summer of 1980 in Berlin, Germany, a crowd of 250,000 strong showed up. That show now sees the light of day on the Berlin: A Concert For The People DVD.

Considering how long ago this was shot, you should forgive those far away stage views and weird, nonsensical film clips interjected for at-home viewers. The eight songs performed on a high stage erected at the Reichstag Parliament dip as far back in the band’s catalog as their second album, 1971’s Once More to the more recent (and at that time, unreleased), 1981’s Turn Of The Tide.

The song ”Berlin” plays while the band’s stage is set up, as well as over the closing credits, but the first song the five piece performs is “Loving is Easy,” a tight love song, uncomplicated, with a commercial sound. “Mockingbird,” from Once More, is one of Barclay James Harvest’s more progressive numbers and one of their best known. It gets almost classic Genesis-like at times with guitarist John Lees playing very Steve Hackett-like leads.

“Sip Of Wine” features bassist Les Holroyd, influenced by Crosby, Stills and Nash and Toto, on vocals this easy-breezy, well received tune — one of four the band plays from their 1978 album, XII. “Nova Lepidoptera” strays into some Alan Parsons Project territory with some truly solid keyboard playing from one of the two hired-gun keyboardists the band had with them (their main mellotron man Woolly Wolstenholme left over musical differences some years before).

There’s a great single-note key opening to “In Memory of the Martyrs” and the crowd gets into the upbeat “Life Is For Living.” The spacey “Child Of The Universe” from 1974’s Everyone Is Everybody Else is another solid progressive tune, while “The Hymn” is about the ravages of drug use. This open stadium acoustic rocker seems to move the crowd the most.

The real treat on the DVD, especially of interest to Barclay James Harvest fans, is the bonus material. There’s a promotional film for the band’s 1975 album Time Honored Tales. Showcasing five songs played in a bubble-like studio, complete with smoke and projections, we get the weird Beatles tribute “Titles” and the harpsichord led “Moon Girl,” complete with a movie of a naked girl floating around in a pool. As a whole, Berlin: A Concert For The People is a great testament to this very European, progressive rock band.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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