"With Dhani on stage, it looks like we all got old and George stayed young" – Olivia Harrison

Review 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 Starr.

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 projects.

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, w
aving: Eric Clapton, Dhani Harrison, Joe Brown

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 to establish!

Photos © Chris Payne 2002