Monday, June 28, 2010

George Harrison 15: Concert For George

A year to the day after George died, his “guitarist-in-law” Eric Clapton collaborated with Olivia and Dhani Harrison to put together a star-studded tribute concert. The obvious parallel would be made to the Concert For Bangla Desh, as many of the friends who’d helped out with that project were on hand to do it again here.
The first half hour—taking up all of disc one—is devoted to Indian music, mostly composed by Ravi Shankar, performed by an orchestra and choir led by Ravi’s daughter Anoushka. An interlude of “The Inner Light” sung by Jeff Lynne fits very well, while the final section includes acoustic extrapolations by Eric. It’s mesmerizing. (Not included on the CD, but presented in full on the DVD, was the intermission, featuring “Sit On My Face” and “The Lumberjack Song” performed by most of Monty Python in full singing-waiter and Mountie costumes. Without question, George would have loved it.)
The rock portion of the show provides heartfelt renditions of several George songs, mostly performed faithfully to the original recordings. Jeff, Eric, Gary Brooker and the little-known-to-Americans Joe Brown trade off on vocals before the big stars come in. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers do “Taxman” and “I Need You”, and bring Dhani and Jeff up for “Handle With Care”. Billy Preston does “Isn’t It A Pity”, then Ringo comes out to sing “Honey Don’t” and “Photograph” before introducing Paul McCartney.
Paul’s choices are intriguing, as they mostly come from the Get Back period. His ukulele arrangement of “Something” dovetails not seamlessly into the standard version, led by a Clapton solo. And his heartfelt rendition of “All Things Must Pass” is a stunner, considering how many times George tried to get the Beatles to learn it, only to be met with indifference. He sits at the piano to back up Eric on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, before letting Billy take over with “My Sweet Lord”. Everyone crowds onstage for “Wah-Wah” (with Klaus Voormann on bass!) and then Joe Brown brings his ukulele out one last time.
While a straight tribute album, George’s voice comes through every moment of this concert. The choice of songs also shows how much his lesser-known tracks meant to his friends. To get the full experience, watch the DVD—the love all these people had for the guy permeates every shot. There are several angles taken of drummers Jim Keltner, Henry Spinetti and Ringo working as one. And with handsome Dhani strumming away on an acoustic throughout, it’s not easy to be unmoved.

Concert For George (2003)—4

1 comment:

  1. Shouldn’t that read “Ravi’s gorgeous daughter Anoushka?”

    Paul’s choices bother me. I get why he used the uke, but damn it, play it as George wanted. Everyone else did. Stop being Showman Paul for just a brief moment. And you and I will always disagree about the Anthology version of ATMP versus Paul’s Concert for George version.

    The weirdest thing about the DVD is towards the end when Dhani speaks because while he’s a virtual visual carbon copy of his dad save his mom’s nose he speaks with a voice very much not George’s.

    We’re nearing the end of the George story, aren’t we? Sad.