Liverpool, 6 July 2005
By Julian Purser

This was one of the concerts in the month-long "Liverpool Pops" fifth season, held on Liverpool's Waterfront. It was for me a nostalgic trip north: I first started my working life in the docks in Liverpool back in the late 1950s! I noticed a lot of changes – the port area is being regenerated, and it is concerts such as the "Pops" that are helping to do this.

For Chris the build-up to the concert had been a busy time, for as well as continuing the Band's normal touring schedule, he had to find the time to plan the concert, and to invite the guests who would make the concert a special one. Once the line-up was settled, two days of rehearsals took place in London, on the previous Monday and Tuesday, after which the band travelled up to stay overnight in Chester. Wednesday was a bright and windy day, with the previous day's rain keeping away. We started arriving on site at 10 o'clock, and soon all the band and technical crew had arrived. With the help of the organising staff the stage was soon set for sound checks and final rehearsals.

After the band had run through their own numbers (a curtailed set due to the time needed for all the guests), on came Van Morrison, who brought his piano man with him (Mark T. Jordan). He and the band ran through his six numbers, two of which were off his new album, Magic Time (see set list at end of article) and other Van favourites. Previous Van performances with Chris and the Band were all skiffle numbers, but this time the music choices were either Van's own compositions or numbers he plays with his regular band.

The next guest to rehearse was Andy Fairweather Low (ex Amen Corner and Eric Clapton, and now with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings). His set included two gospel numbers (both often played by the Band, but with very different arrangements) and a blues number. On stage next were Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor, with Andy remaining on vocal for another Gospel number, and with Bill taking the vocals on a Chuck Berry song. Finally "Big Bill" Morganfield (Muddy Waters's son) took to the stage with three blues numbers.

All the rehearsals went well, and those of us present (who included Giorgio Gomelsky, founder of the Crawdaddy Club, and who first discovered the Rolling Stones and managed the Yardbirds, besides producing Battersea Rain Dance for Chris) enjoyed what was in effect the whole concert before the concert!

There was then time for a rest and sustenance before the evening show. It is I think appropriate here to praise the backstage facilities – there were always refreshments available, and a place to rest.

Then we had the concert itself, with an audience of over 3000. Down went the lights and on came Chris to announce his Band, and straight into Bourbon Street Parade, followed by Rent Party Blues and Jungle Nights In Harlem, Spell Of The Blues, and Jubilee Stomp. The Band's set ended with Big Noise from Winnetka, greatly enjoyed by the audience.

It was then time for the first guest, with Chris explaining how Van had heard Goin' Home when he was young, it being an influence on him. So on came the "Man" to rapturous applause. Goin' Home was followed by St. James Infirmary Blues, Mediocrity (from the new album), Moondance, Lonely And Blue (Fats Waller's Black and Blue) and finishing with the up-tempo All Work And No Play.

To give the view of a Van expert I quote from Simon Gee's review for Wavelength – The Van Morrison Magazine (formerly online: now defunct):

If you love to hear Van work out with a foot-stompin', rollicking, raucous big band of altos, tenors, clarinets, trombones and trumpets then this gem of a 30 minutes is for you! Wish those horns were with him all the time. Part of a two hour plus tribute to Chris Barber [as Bill Wyman so eloquently put it later on: if it hadn't been for Chris then none of the sixties music scene would have happened]. Van appeared at the end of the first set with guitar, harp and sax, and current pianist, Mark. Fantastic Saint James with Van on top form scatting and ad-libbing, excellent Moondance (wow, those riffs with those horns), a quieter sincere reading of Lonely And Blue with Chris doing back-up vocals, and finally a rowdy and jolly All Work as you've never heard it before. Thanks Chris for starting all this, and thanks Van for rising to the occasion and loving every minute of it.

There followed a short intermission.

Petite Fleur opened the second half, with Tony Carter taking the lead clarinet part. Then Chris introduced the next guest, "Big Bill" Morganfield, singing and playing blues guitar on Crying Days, Long Distance Call, and Foolish Love, with Chris playing some pungent solos.

Andy Fairweather Low then took centre stage to sing and play two gospel songs which, he said, he does not often get the chance to play: Glory, Glory and Closer Walk With Thee. Both were very different from the usual band versions. Andy finished his set with blues standard Stormy Monday. Andy was then joined on stage by the last two guests, Terry Taylor (guitar) and Bill Wyman (all three are part of Bill's band). Andy took the lead vocal on I Shall Not Be Moved and Bill sang lead on You Never Can Tell, played with a New Orleans feel to it.

It was now nearing time to end the concert, and with Big Bill back on stage, the Band swept into The Saints with everybody (except Van, who had to leave to go to Cork) taking solos and/or singing – a tour de force.

This was probably the most varied Chris Barber concert ever played, the Band suiting each guest and changing the mood as required. I don't know of any band (let alone a jazz band) that can play this type of concert like Chris's can. They were superb.

It was a day many of us will never forget. Thanks to Chris, the Band, and all the guests for a wonderful day. I'll leave the last words to Bill Wyman.

If it wasn't for this guy here, none of would have been here tonight. All the rock bands of the sixties, I'm talking about. The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, everybody, everybody learnt from skiffle, and what Chris was doing, and bringing over blues artists in the fifties, and forties even, and so we are very proud to be here tonight as he is massive in the history of English music.

Copyright © Julian Purser 2005; licensed to


More than fifty photographs from July 6 can be seen on the Liverpool Concert Photos page (members of the band, guests, backstage, and rehearsal). For a separate page of photos of the concert itself by Helge Lorenz, please click here.

... and the fans enjoyed the concert too!!!

On 6th July, we were fortunate to have tickets to see the Big Chris barber band with Van Morrison, Bill Wyman, Big Bill Morganfield and Andy Fairweather Low. What an evening to remember! Chris and his Band were at their very best and made us the more grateful for all the splendid music they have played for us over the last 50 years. Happy 75th Chris, and long may you continue. -- Daphne & Chris Hughes, Rhos-on-Sea, Conwy.

The Chris Barber Liverpool Summer Pops concert last night was brilliant! My son and I enjoyed it tremendously – my son as a first timer at Chris's concerts, me as an old timer recalling concerts of 40 and 50 years ago. Chris Barber concerts are as wonderful as they ever were. He and his band were superb, his guests were fantastic. It was nice that Bill Wyman paid tribute to Chris's contribution to more recent pop music (more recent? the Beatles? the Stones? 40 years ago?). But true. Please pass on to Chris Barber the thanks of myself and my son – we thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Thanks also for playing "Petit Fleur" as I requested. It really made our evening. We both look forward to attending a Chris Barber concert again – perhaps he will be at the next Liverpool Summer Pops? We do hope so. It was brilliant. Thank you Chris. -- Doreen Schlechte

The Big Chris Barber Band and Guests

Pat Halcox, Mike "Magic" Henry (trumpets), Chris Barber (trombone, vocals), Bob Hunt (trombone), Tony Carter, John Defferary, Richard Exall (saxes, clarinets), John Slaughter (guitar), Andy Kuc (guitar, banjo), Vic Pitt (string bass), John Sutton (drums), with Terry Taylor (guitar, vocal), Bill Wyman (electric bass), Andy Fairweather Low (guitar, vocal), "Big Bill" Morganfield (guitar, vocal), Mark T. Jordan (piano), Van Morrison (alto sax, guitar, harmonica, vocal).
Sound/recording, etc.: Barry Walker & Mike Whaley.

Bourbon Street Parade

Band only
Rent Party Blues Band only
Jungle Nights In Harlem Band only
Spell Of The Blues Band only
Jubilee Stomp Band only
Big Noise From Winnetka
Vic Pitt and John Sutton/then Band only
Goin' Home Van Morrison plus Band and Mark T. Jordan
St. James Infirmary Blues Van Morrison plus Band and Mark T. Jordan
Mediocrity Van Morrison plus Band and Mark T. Jordan
Moondance Van Morrison plus Band and Mark T. Jordan
Lonely and Blue Van Morrison plus Band and Mark T. Jordan
All Work and No Play Van Morrison plus Band and Mark T. Jordan
Petite Fleur Band only
Crying Days Big Bill Morganfield and Band
Long Distance Phone Call Big Bill Morganfield and Band
Foolish Love Big Bill Morganfield and Band
Glory, Glory Andy Fairweather Low and Band
Closer Walk With Thee Andy Fairweather Low and Band
Stormy Monday Blues Andy Fairweather Low and Band
I Shall Not Be Moved
Andy Fairweather Low, Terry Taylor, Bill Wyman and Band
You Never Can Tell Andy Fairweather Low, Terry Taylor, Bill Wyman and Band
When The Saints Go Marching In Andy Fairweather Low, Terry Taylor, Bill Wyman, Big Bill Morganfield and Band
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