Dhani on stage, it looks like we all got old and George stayed young"
by Mary Payne
Friends who are aware that it took forty minutes of sitting anxiously
by the phone, constantly redialling the RAH Box Office, in order to
obtain tickets at the very rear of the upper circle, costing £75
apiece, wondered whether the event would be worth the money and effort? The
answer is an emphatic, "YES!" On the first anniversary of George's
untimely death, his family and closest friends had arranged a tribute
concert that did him proud.
The Albert Hall was heavy with incense and anticipation. As the audience
took their seats, a large photograph of George provided a backdrop,
with his guitar standing poignantly spotlighted, centre-stage. Eric
Clapton, who co-organised the tribute with George's widow Olivia,
introduced the sitar-master Ravi Shankar, who had specially composed
the first part of the concert to encompass George's spiritual beliefs
and love of Eastern culture. Olivia lit candles, and was followed
on stage by Anoushka Shankar, the composer's daughter, who played
solo sitar and conducted an orchestra of Eastern instrumentalists
and singers accompanied by a small orchestra of Western instruments.
The second half of the evening was devoted, in the main, to interpretations
of George's compositions by some of the world's best-known musicians,
amongst them Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Billy Preston,
Jools Holland and Jim Capaldi. Not forgetting Paul McCartney and Ringo
George's 24-year-old son Dhani, who collaborated with Jeff Lynne to
complete the recently-released Brainwashed album, has clearly inherited
his father's musical talents. Dhani's hair, looks and mannerisms are
strikingly similar to those of George who, at a slightly younger
age, was sporting collarless jackets during the height of Beatlemania.
As Olivia remarked, "With Dhani on stage, it looks like we all got
old and George stayed young."
The Monty Python team of Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry
Gilliam and Carol Cleveland, assisted by Neil Innes, performed two
hilarious musical sketches. The Pythons sang The Lumberjack Song,
accompanied by most of the audience, plus another song, the title
of which cannot be mentioned on a family website. Let's just say it
was about 'naughty bits' and finished with what is best described
as 'a twist in the tale'! George (who will be remembered as 'The Fifth
Ruttle') had, of course, been a legendary financial backer of Python
Joe Brown, who has been around the British music scene for much longer
than most of the others on stage, including the Beatles, (but Joe
never seems to age), impressed with a warm rendition of Here Comes
the Sun. Joe and daughter Sam both feature on Brainwashed, an unfinished
project of George's, which Jeff Lynne and Dhani completed with the
aid of his dad's instructional notes as to where they should add the
odd 'little plinky bit'.
Ringo Starr, looking very fit, was showered with jelly babies as he
bounced on stage to a standing ovation of drum-solo length! He sang
two numbers, before taking his place behind one of three drum kits.
The three drummers were assisted by Ray Cooper on percussion, and
the band also boasted an impressive collection of no less than four
keyboard players - including Paul McCartney on piano! However, the
megastars' appearance was very much played down, with the emphasis rightfully
placed on George and his oft-neglected talents as a composer.
Many of the evening's performers received standing ovations, but it
was Joe Brown who was chosen to close the evening, singing the gentle,
"I'll See You In My Dreams", the 1920s standard written by Gus Kahn
and Isham Jones. Joe, who always uses the song to close his own stage
show, accompanied himself on the ukulele, as showers of coloured confetti
drifted down amongst the audience and a group of friends held up a
huge banner reading, 'My Sweet George'.
It made a most fitting finish
to an evening celebrating the life of George Harrison, a man whom,
to quote Ravi Shankar, "Gave so many songs to this world..."
Ravi also voiced the opinion of many when he said that George, whom
he had regarded as his son, was surely present at the concert, alongside
the friends and fans who admired and cared for him.
"We salute him with love and respect," he said.
Click on the picture
above, of the concert finale, to view a large version,
in which you may be able to make out:
Left of photo: Back row, percussion, Ray Cooper
Next row: (behind Hammond organ) Billy Preston and Ringo
In front of Hammond: Gary Brooker on keyboard
Next to keyboard: Carol Cleveland and Pythons
Right of Pythons: Jools Holland
Centre stage, waving: Eric Clapton, Dhani Harrison,
To their right: Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty
Applauding behind piano: Paul McCartney
Right of photo, back row: Python 'Mounties'
The above is correct as far as the myopic Webmasters are able