George Harrison Live! !
For the past dozen years or so I and my friends Rob and Gwyn have nurtured an impossible dream; to see George Harrison in the flesh performing a full set of his greatest songs. Of course the old sod has teased us from time to time with the odd great appearance alongside the likes of Bob Dylan, and he did have his own mini slot on the 1987 Princes Trust Concert but our dreams remained unfulfilled.
It is therefore something of an understatement to say that I was surprised to recelve what I presumed to be a particularly cruel April Fools joke from one of my pals telling me that the Bard of Henley had teamed up with some old hippies, calling themselves the ‘Natural Law Party’ and would be making his solo British concert debut on Monday the 6th April at the Royal Albert Hall. Well thankfully this piece of news was no hoax and we duly snapped up our tickets when they went on sale the following day – a mere four rows from the front! Well done to Gwyn and his credit card! All of these years of devotion spending summer holidaysencamped outside Friar Park risking life, limb and arrest by peering over the fences and rummaging through the Harrison’s household dustbins suddenly seemed worthwhile. April the 6th arrived and the Albert Hall beckoned. George could not have chosen a more appropriate venue for his British debut not because of the ‘A Day In The Life’ connection but because its majesty and splendour are perfectly in keeping with George’s music George chose two of his old pals, Joe Walsh and Gary Moore to open the evenings proceedings. Walsh was sometime member of the Eagles, that Insipld AOR band of the ’70’s who were responsible for such turgid anthems as ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Life In The Fast Lane’. Joe, looking like a cross between old man Steptoe and Rupert the Bear dressed in a crumpled, grubby checked suit treated us to the latter and spared us the former. Cheers Joe!
Gary Moore succeeded In getting the evening back on the right track with his soulful singing and his bluesy gultarplaying. “When Moore trundled off to generous applause after hls thirty minute set we prepared ourselves for the main course.
At approximately 9-15 the lights dimmed and the “Quiet One” strode onto the stage to the most tumultuous applause Immaginable. George looked ‘Shocked and stunned’ by this welcome. Before he had time to take it all in the band cranked into ‘l Want To Tell You’ and we were under way. Rob, Gwyn and I looked at each other and then at our hero who was standing about ten feet away wearing a snappy grey suit, (thank God he didn’t use Joe Walsh’s tallor) and wearing that familiar lopsided grin. We were in heaven
He followed the ’Revolver’ classic with two more fab tunes ’Old Brown Shoe’ and ‘Taxman’. I immediately noticed the power and clarity of George’s voice, none of the weediness that you hear on the bootlegs of his 1974 U.S. tour. George looked in his element, singing his heart outand riffing along happily with his fellow guitarists Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Andy Fairweather-Low once of Amen Corner.
After opening with three rockers it was inevitable that the tempo would slacken and George duly obliged with a beautifully restrained version of ‘Give Me Love’, which sounded infinitely superior to the 1973 ‘Living In The Material World’ version.At the conclusion of this song the spotlight fell on George as he proceeded to play a beautifulbut unfamiliar slide guitar phrase. We all looked at one another, rather puzzled as George’s guitar majestically segued this phrase into the intro for his best loved song “Something”. This was a major highlight of the evening as Hari demonstrated what a superb and original guitarist he is on a composition which is the equal to any Lennon / McCartney love song.
Having been underemployed for ten minutes or so George’s band went into overdrive on the nextone “What Is Life” and effectively created that legendary ‘All Things Must Pass’ wall of sound. The show then sagged a little with the appearance of ‘Piggies’ which although performed falthfully by George seemed a little out of place alongside the other selections. However, ‘Got My Mind Set On You’ got us tapping our feet once more and we all floated up to heavenagain when George followed this with “Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’. The latter was the evenings ‘audienceparticipation’ number with everyone responding to the Master’s instruction to sing along by chanting the ‘Hare Krishna’s in an hypnotic fashion.
‘All Those Years Ago’ followed, and whilst not in the class of the previous two songs it is a heartfelt and thoughtful tribute to John. “God bless John Lennon’ said George at the end of the song and we all roared our approval.
‘Cheer Down, George’s contribution to the film ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ was next up and although played by the band with a lot of fire was soon forgotten as the opening bars of ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ filled the auditorium. This shimmering, ethereal epic; never released in the UK as a single; was the highlight of the evening and reaffirmed the depth of George’s songwriting. There are songs on every one of George’s albums which have never or rarely been aired on radio that are equal in quality to his acknowledged classics such as ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Something’. This is one of them.
With the audience still reeling from the awesome ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ George launched into his best rocker of recent years ‘Devil’s Radio’ and the band propelled along with great gusto. I have never understood why Warners did not release this as the follow up to ‘Got My Mind Set On You’ as it has far more commercial appeal than the subsequent singles ‘When We Was Fab’ and ‘This Is Love’. George and his cohorts left the stage after this song to deafening applause but returned after several minutes to introduce a “blast from all our pasts” Ringo The ‘down to earth’ Beatle was ordered by the quiet one’ to his drum kit and we were then treated to а mesmerizing version of ‘WhileMy Guitar Gently Weeps’ with Gary Moore stepping into Clapton’s shoes and merrily trading solos with George.
The final song of the evening was the old Chuck Berry chestnut ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and featured young Dhani Harrison making his first public appearance on guitar A suitable rollicking rendition ensued and when the music ended, the crowd rose as one to salute one of rock musics finest exponents.
We all agreed that this was the finest musical night of our lives and our hero appeared to revel in the elecric atmosphere. ‘Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long’ for the next time George!
By Phil Wood.