CONCERT FOR GEORGE

(2002)
With Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Dhani Harrison, Billy Preston, Olivia Harrison, Joe Brown, Ravi Shankar
Directed by David Leland
Reviewed by JB

     One of the finest tribute concerts ever staged, featuring only musicians who had a close connection with the late Beatle George Harrison, who died from cancer in November of 2001.  With few exceptions, the songs performed were all penned by Harrison, and what may be surprising is how most of the songs stand up, from his Beatles and solo hits down to some real obscurities like "That's the Way It Goes", a little gem from the poor-selling solo album of the 1980s GONE TROPPO.  The inclusion of an Indian music section and a handful of Monty Python songs aptly tribute both sides of Harrison's personality, which fully embraced both the sublime and the ridiculous.

     Eric Clapton and Jeff Lynne anchor the concert, both of their voices doing justice to Harrison's melodies.  One by one, friends like Tom Petty, Joe Brown and Billy Preston join the band and perform favorites like "Taxman", "Here Comes the Sun", "Isn't It a Pity" and "My Sweet Lord".  The concert climaxes with the appearances of Ringo Starr, who sings "Photograph" (words by Ringo, tune by George) and Carl Perkin's "Honey Don't", and Paul McCartney, whose song choices are surprising: the slight but fun blues shuffle "For You Blue" and the gorgeous "All Things Must Pass".  But even after tremendous All-Star versions of "Something" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", it is the less famous Joe Brown who steals the show in the final moments with a beautiful and tear-jerking ukulele version of the old thirties tune "I'll See You in My Dreams".  It could be said that the only thing missing is George himself, but everything is performed with such expertise and affection, it feels like he is there, and that is the real triumph of the film. 

     Not a great movie like, say, THE LAST WALTZ, but a great concert.  Take away one or two stars if you're not crazy about George Harrison or his music.   5 - JB

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