Saturday night, at Asbury Park’s McLoone’s Supper Club, two veteran British musicians, singer-guitarists Peter Asher and Albert Lee, transformed the 250-seat venue into what felt like a couple of old friends singing in someone’s living room, just for the pure enjoyment of it.
The show, which was one of the last of the month-long Light of Day Music Festival, was definitely one the best concerts this writer has seen in years.
Lee, 73, of course, is considered of the world’s best guitarists. His resume includes working with the likes of Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Jackson Browne. The 71-year-old Asher was once half of the “British Invasion” duo Peter and Gordon, before being appointed the head of A&R for the Beatles’ Apple Records. He subsequently became the hugely successful producer and manager of James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.
Asher and Lee’s current American tour is a very-low-budget affair, just the pair and their manager traveling in a Minivan, with their instruments. In fact, they had just traversed over 250 miles, from their previous Massachusetts gig to this one.
Albert, forgoing his trademark Telecaster guitar, instead employed a red semi-hollow-body Gretsch Duane Eddy model that he reserves for these shows. Asher performed mostly on an acoustic guitar and, for a few songs, an electric bass.
Comparing himself with Lee, Asher in a charming British self-deprecating manner admitted, “People will look at a three-chord punter and think, ‘At least I’m better than he is!’”
The show was clearly an homage to their mostly American musical heroes from the 1950s, most notably the Everly Brothers whom Lee served as music director for many years. Lee and Asher performed spot-on versions of “Let It Be Me” and “Crying In The Rain,” the latter of which was clearly the show’s highlight.
Asher, who did most of the talking between songs, recalled what a huge inspiration the Everly Brothers were to Peter and Gordon. This included imitating the way the Everlys would enter the stage from opposite sides, which was really due more to an antagonistic sibling rivalry than to showmanship.
Of course, Elvis Presley was also very important to many British artists who were contemporaries of Asher and Lee, and the duo did justice to Presley’s first record, “That’s All Right, Mama.” Cliff Richard, the British equivalent of Elvis in the ’50s (and still going strong at 75), was another favorite of Asher’s, who was particularly enamored with Hank B. Marvin, the lead guitarist of Richard’s band, The Shadows.
Before performing Buddy Holly’s “Well, Allright,” Asher also recalled what a massive influence Holly was, so much so that he went all around London, searching for a pair of similarly-styled black-rimmed eyeglasses, while, in the early 1970s, Lee actually became a member of Holly’s band, The Crickets.
Other show highlights included Lee’s blistering solos on “Sweet Little Lisa,” which he originally recorded with Dave Edmunds. Lee also did himself proud on piano when rendering Glen Campbell’s “A Better Place” and Jimmy Webb’s “The Highwayman,” the latter of which is also the title song of his most recent album.
Asher, naturally acknowledged his Peter and Gordon days. He recalled how they heard Del Shannon’s “I Go To Pieces” while on a 1964 Australian tour with The Searchers. When The Searchers passed on the song, Shannon gave them permission to record what became one of Peter and Gordon’s best remembered hits.
Asher also revealed the genesis of “A World Without Love.” When his sister Jane, a well-known British actress, was dating Paul McCartney in ’64, McCartney would often stay in the Asher home. He shared Peter’s bedroom, and ultimately composed the song that jumpstarted Peter and Gordon’s career.
Near the show’s end, Asher strapped on an instrument he calls “a banjolele,” to recreate what was Peter and Gordon’s last big American hit, “Lady Godiva,” which he originally had reservations about recording.
Following a standing ovation, Lee and Asher returned to encore with a haunting rendition of another Everly Brothers’ signature song, “Let It Be Me.”