In the midst of some very challenging times, I have a tattoo that reminds me, in the handwriting of my hero George Harrison, that ‘All Things Must Pass’. This is true of all things, the good and the bad, and the inbetween.
The album of that name is my ‘therapy album’, and due to some huge personal challenges, it’s been played a lot in recent months. The title song is particularly comforting, and reminds me
“Now the darkness only stays the night time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always gonna be this grey”
A few months ago, I discovered a tribute band called The All Things Must Pass Orchestra, a George Harrison tribute band. And they were touring, including a gig in Henley on Thames, George’s home town for so many years, and where his widow Olivia still lives.
Now, I’m a little wary of tribute bands as a general rule…they can be excellent, such as in the case of The Bootleg Beatles, or Think Floyd. Or they can be terrible. There seems to be no happy medium.
So with this doubt in mind, I was hesitant to buy a ticket that would mean such a lot of travel from my South Wales home. But I have wanted to visit Henley and see the famous (among George fans at least) Friar Park gates for a long time. And I have always wanted to hear George’s music performed live…. So I treated myself to a front row ticket!
Henley road trip!
I arrived in Henley in time to visit Friar Park before the show. I was amazed when I checked my Google maps to see just how close to the centre of the town George’s home was… a mere 3 minute walk from the car park to the gates!
I got a real thrill when I realised that the pub I was walking towards as I walked up the short road to Friar Park was the Row Barge, famously George’s ‘local’.
The beauty of Friar Park
As I walked towards the gates, I was delighted to see two women also looking at the Friar Park gardens, one wearing an ‘All Things Must Pass’ t-shirt. While I am not even remotely embarrassed by my ‘fan girl’ behaviour, it was fun to share the moment with other George fans, and feel less weird about taking photos of someone’s front gates!
Friar Park is a neo gothic Victorian mansion that was built by Sir Frankie Crisp in 1889. George bought it in 1970, and many of his solo albums were recorded there, including Living in the Material World, Cloud Nine and Brainwashed, the final album he recorded, which was released after his death.
While it is not possible to see much of it from the gates, there is enough to intrigue and delight a George fan looking to connect with George’s life.
It was a real joy to be there, and to share the moment with two fellow George fans. As we sat on a bench nearby and chatted, one of the women realised that we already follow one another us on Twitter! When social media meets real life, such a funny moment!
To the Kenton Theatre!
We walked together from Friar Park to the Kenton Theatre to enjoy the evening’s show. My two new friends already knew the band and had assured me that they were worth the journey.
I wasn’t disappointed!
From the moment the 10 piece band came on stage, I knew I was being entertained by people who played the music because they loved it. Every time they talked about George, the shared love of the man and his music was clear to see.
The gig was a rescheduled show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of All Things Must Pass. I hadn’t realised that at the time I booked, or I would have been even more excited to go!
Their set consisted of a lot of songs from ATMP, including some of my absolute favourites. They played a lot of George’s more well known songs, including a selection of his best Beatles songs, as well as some less well known album tracks from All Things Must Pass.
I say well known… judging by the singing around me in the audience, I don’t think they played anything that was ‘less well known’ in that hall, but you know what I mean!
The band didn’t try replicate George’s sound exactly, but brought their own flavour and obvious love for the music to create a joyful musical experience, and truly honoured George’s work.
While Alex Eberhard is the leader and founder of the band, he certainly didn’t hog the stage, sharing singling duties with other band members, and taking time to introduce all the band members in ways that showed the camaraderie and respect the band shares. I was particularly delighted to learn that trombone player Paul Nieman actually played as a session musician on All Things Must Pass!
What they played
Like the good little fan girl I am, I made a note of the setlist as we went along. I didn’t want to forget any of it!
- I want to tell you
- All Things Must Pass
- Cheer down
- What is life
- Beware of darkness
- If not for you
- It don’t come easy
- Got my mind set on you
- Run of the mill
- While my guitar gently weeps
- Let it down
- I me mine
- Old brown shoe 👞
- Here comes the moon 🌙
- If I needed someone
- Any road
- Isn’t it a pity?
- Here comes the sun 🌞
- My sweet lord
After briefly chatting to Alex and Bernd and some other fans for a little while after the show, I headed to the Row Barge where I enjoyed a swift soda water and lime before one last moonlit view of the Friar Park gates and the drive back to my hotel.
In the morning, I returned to Henley once more for another visit to Friar Park before heading back to Wales one happy fan girl!
I’ll be back in Henley in September at the end of a 100km Ultra Challenge hike, which I am doing to raise money for Rowan Tree Cancer Care. I have booked to stay in the Row Barge that night, and am hoping that my legs will work enough to get me up the very small hill to the pub!