A Concert For George, Royal Albert Hall, London

Royal Albert Hall, London

A huge portrait of George Harrison stares out over the Royal Albert Hall. He looks a bit fed up. Never the sunniest Beatle, he often looked like that in photographs, but it is interesting to speculate what he would have made of tonight's event. On one hand, he virtually invented the superstar charity gig with the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. On the other, he was intensely private, suggesting the public mark his passing by meditating. Outside the venue, paparazzi jostle for pictures of Tom Hanks.

Harrison would certainly have enjoyed the music specially composed by Ravi Shankar. A tiny, frail figure, Shankar sits onstage, nodding as his daughter Anoushka plays a sitar solo, and ELO's Jeff Lynne joins her for a gorgeous version of The Inner Light.

The second half features a band led by Lynne and Eric Clapton, bashing out his best-known songs with celebrity guests. One rumour suggests Bob Dylan will make a surprise appearance. He doesn't, and the overstaffed group makes the inevitable racket of nine guitarists and three drummers together.

Nevertheless, the event's warmth sweeps the audience along. One standing ovation follows another, even when Tom Petty - now bearing a terrifying resemblance to Richard O Brien in The Rocky Horror Picture Show - attempts to compensate for Dylan's absence by singing Taxman through his nose. Ringo Starr cheerily bellows Photograph and Paul McCartney duets with Clapton on While My Guitar Gently Weeps and performs Something on the ukelele.

Before Joe Brown plays a final, moving reading of Gus Kahn's 1920's standard I'll See You In My Dreams, the ensemble rampage through a cacophonous Wah Wah. It is a curious decision. Wah Wah is a bitter song, written after Harrison stormed out of a Beatles' rehearsal, accusing McCartney of patronising him by telling him how to play a solo. But tonight, McCartney is pounding at a piano, stage right, a sideman on a Harrison masterpiece about how ghastly life in The Beatles was. It's hard to suppress the sort of sardonic chuckle that Harrison frequently used when discussing his "nightmare" time as a Fab - and conclude that's what George would have wanted.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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