There was no denying the support for Harvey James at the Caravan Club in Melbourne on Thursday night. A full house turned out to cheer on the legendary Australian guitarist as he took to the stage again, flanked by friends, family and fellow musicians who helped to make this a night to remember for Harvey and everyone else in the room.
For those of you who aren't yet aware, Harvey was diagnosed with lung cancer five months ago and his battle with the disease inspired this benefit, dubbed ‘Gimme That Guitar’. James’s passion for playing guitar is well known in the Australian music industry and the night showcased his undeniable gift for playing the many and varied styles of music that have formed a part of his long musical career. And he proved that talent has not diminished in any way with the passing of time; if anything, there was, perhaps, a new found depth of emotion in his playing.,
We were treated to interpretations of some of the songs that the guitarist loves, as well as those he helped make famous, including a selection of tunes by two of his most famous bands, Sherbet and Ariel.
The musicians on stage throughout the night included Phil Manning, Ian Moss, Garth Porter, Alan Sandow and Tony Mitchell from Sherbet, Gavin Carroll, Vic De Marco, Paul De Marco, Joe Creighton, Alex Formosa Baudo, Glenn Kleesh, Rick Puchala, Andy Marshal, Rob Riley and Spiro (Rose Tattoo), Jimi Hocking, Greg Aldridge, Wilbur Wilde, Harvey’s sons, Gabe and Joshua James and, of course, Harvey himself, as well as a headlining performance by Ariel, featuring Harvey on guitar. (Forgive me if I’ve overlooked anyone, guys!)
With most members of Sherbet there, some Sherbet songs were, naturally, going to be on the agenda. Of course, Garth was on hand to sing 'Matter of Time' but, without the familiar falsetto of Daryl Braithwaite, there had to be a couple of ring-ins to lend their vocals. Rob Riley, lyrics firmly in hand, gave us his own unique rendition of 'Blueswalkin' while Spiro took over for the ever popular 'Summer Love' and 'Howzat', featuring Harvey's famous guitar work, which was met with great applause from the audience.
Ian Moss and Phil Manning both performed incredible sets and the crowd was lapping up every moment. So much talent on one stage on one night! But the night truly belonged to Harvey and the man showed no restraint in proving that he still has what it takes to make the old Strat and Telecaster sing! And, for the best part of four hours, that's exactly what he did! Surpassing even his own expectations, Harvey played his heart out, performing throughout the evening with a show of stamina that amazed everyone, including himself. His son had placed a chair on stage for him – just in case - but the seasoned professional never looked close to using it, while most of us plebs standing on the dance floor probably felt as if we could do with the occasional sit-down, if you know what I mean!
There were many touching moments, not the least of which was Harvey's heart warming speech, explaining his motivation behind the event, to raise much needed funds for the Peter Mac Foundation for Cancer Research and, of course, for his family whose love and support shone like a guiding light for all of us. Having his sons, Gabe and Josh (both fine guitarists themselves) join their father on stage, was a definite highlight and something I will never forget.
Garth Porter joined Ariel for a couple of songs, including a decidedly moving rendition of ‘I’ll Be Gone’, the crowd singing along with the chorus.
Family, friends, behind-the-scenes organisers and musicians alike joined together for the finale, Bob Dylan’s ‘Everybody Get Stoned’.
Congratulations to all those involved in putting the show together in such a short space of time, especially the team at Wrokdown. Working in collaboration with Harvey and his family, they did an excellent job.
This was a night that, according to Harvey, was everything the guitarist imagined it would be and, for all of us who were privileged to be there, a fitting celebration of the man and his music.
by Sharyn Hamey