Monday, November 2, 2009

George Harrison 13: Live In Japan

One of the more baffling questions of the rock era is this: If your best friend ran away with your wife, would you still hang out with him? George’s friendship with Eric Clapton has long been the cause of head-scratching among us plebes. Whether it was respect or the promise of easy cash, somehow Eric managed to talk George into touring the Far East in 1991. Eric supplied the band—the same crew who’d brought him several Grammys for his Unplugged show—and George only had to bring a couple of guitars and his choice of songs.
Since George never played any other dates outside that original itinerary, the only souvenir we were allowed was Live In Japan, two discs’ worth of a typical concert from the tour. Interestingly, he plays eight Beatles songs, with little touches like the recorded count-in for “Taxman” and the missing verse of “Piggies”. The remainder covers all the hits from throughout his solo career, ending with “Roll Over Beethoven”. There were occasional surprises, like “Old Brown Shoe” and “Cheer Down”, but for the most part he goes with songs well inside the vernacular. The songs hold up, and the band plays everything competently, as we’d expect they would.
It’s nice to hear George in a live atmosphere again, and he almost seems to be enjoying himself, even giving the crowd an occasional “arigato”. For the longest time Live In Japan was the closest thing to a career retrospective, and it gave Warners some dough from songs they never owned. (And just to show he cared, the credited producers for the set are Spike and Nelson Wilbury.)

George Harrison Live In Japan (1992)—

1 comment:

  1. I bought this on a lark, and I wasn’t disappointed. I also was amazed that George actually did any sort of tour, never mind with Clapton! Including two songs from one of my all-time favorites, “Revolver”, was going to hook me in no matter what. George is in very good voice. In fact, I think “Dark Horse” is actually better than the studio version. The only disappointing performance here is of my favorite George solo tune, “What is Life?” That song really needs Spector’s Wall of Sound to make it seem transcendent. I don’t want it to sound just like any old song! Ending the concert with “Roll Over Beethoven” was a nice idea, too, George taking himself back to his roots.
    I suppose one could quibble with the song selection. The first two Dark Horse albums had hits. Why ignore them? “Don’t Bother Me” or “Think for Yourself” would have been more fun than “Cheer Down” or “Cloud Nine”. But these are just nitpicks. Fans are very lucky to have this album. It makes me miss George even more.