Joe Brown, Gig Review. Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. (2018).

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

There are institutions, there are legends and then if you are lucky enough, if you have the fortune and interest of spirit coursing through your veins, then there are those to whom British music owes not just a debt of thanks, but a rather large cheque that can never be cashed or exchanged. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Take That, Bananarama, Atomic Kitten, Kate Bush, without the likes of Tommy Steele, Billy Fury and Joe Brown leading the way from the very start, arguably the British music scene would have looked an awful lot different.

Heroes come from across the age with a smile, a grin that is both cheeky and much loved, the stories they tell bear witness to the fact they are part of history that needs to be preserved, that they have been and remain a fabric, the very heart, of what goes on now around us. Heroes have the easy charm that you cannot notice an audience fall in love with and as soon as they walk on the stage, there are those to whom the applause will start; not out of politeness or relief but out of incredible admiration.

So it is to Joe Brown who returned to Liverpool alongside his friend and musical partner for the evening, the sublime Henry Gross, and to whom the thanks must be laid, a pioneer is only as good as the map that has been drawn before and from Lincolnshire to Plaistow as a young boy and through to one of the most sought after stars of his generation, Joe Brown has heard, seen and performed most of it; anything he hasn’t, they just don’t figure as a back drop to the anecdotes and much loved tunes performed at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

Stories and music, the smile just kept coming through, the patience and sincerity of the man and his music a testament to the power of the performers that came after the war, enthused by the sound of America and determined to be better than them. With stories that included a pair of the late and much missed Johnny Cash’s boots, early days on the road and how he met his friend Henry Gross, it would be fair to say that the crown were kept warm by the tales as the freezing January night threatened to bite at the fingers and nibble well beyond the toes.

In songs such as The Darktown Strutters Ball, I’m Henry The Eighth, Sea of Heartbreak, a fantastic version of both James Taylor’s Something In The Way She Moves and George Harrison’s much loved Beatle’s track Here Comes The Sun, Tickle My Heart, Wonderful Picture of You and a sublime solo moment for Henry Gross as he performed his great song Shannon, the night was a moving feast of endearment, the smiles from both men were lasting and passionate for the music they combined in and the admiration from the crowd inside the Philharmonic Hall was un-ceaselessly etched in their hearts.

Joe Brown always comes to Liverpool armed with a little more than arguably he might anywhere else, the relish of playing in the home town of his great friend George Harrison makes the evening such a night to remember and for that the title of legend has arguably never been more appropriate.

Ian D. Hall