A Concert For George
Liverpool Empire 24th February 2002
charity concert had sold out within 24 hours of the tickets going on sale, while
the list of artistes due to appear was yet to be announced.
And so it was that the audience gathered to pay tribute to George and
raise £36,000 in ticket sales alone for the Roy Castle Foundation, Macmillan
Cancer Relief and Marie Curie Cancer Care on what would have been George
Harrison’s 59th birthday.
first half of the show was devoted entirely to the sixties.
Hosts Billy Butler and Phil Easton introduced the first act of the
evening, The Ivy League. They
opened their set with their UK number three hit “Tossing And Turning” and
went on to play other sixties songs including “Only the Lonely” and another
Ivy League song “Funny How Love Can Be”, finishing with a medley.
They said, “It is really nice to be here on this very special
next act were The Blue Meanies, a local Beatles tribute band, who had waited
around all day, hoping to be allowed to take part.
They played two Lennon-McCartney numbers, “I Saw Her Standing There”
and “From Me To You” and presented a cheque for £1,000 they’d raised at a
concert in the Cavern.
Crane and Bill Kinsley’s Merseybeats, the band to have played alongside the
Beatles most often, followed. They
played eleven songs including “Hey Baby” which they used to play at the
Cavern Club, “Let It Be Me” (known to George fans from the bootleg “12
Arnold Grove”), and a medley of Lennon-McCartney songs.
They said, “It is a privilege for us to be here on this night.
The Beatles were our idols in those days.
It’s a privilege for us to have known George”. They also played their biggest single, “I Think Of You”,
thanking The Beatles for predicting that it would be a hit when they were on
Jukebox Jury. Their set concluded
the interval, the hosts thanked everyone involved in the concert, giving a
special mention to the stage crew and other theatre staff who had made it
possible to stage the concert in between performances of “Her Benny”.
Special guest Pete Waterman came on stage and teased the audience by
saying “He’s not here… Simon’s [Cowell] not here!” initially allowing the audience to assume he meant Paul
McCartney. He went on to tell a
story about how he and George were great fans of George Formby.
George would play a fantastic chord sequence on ukulele and Pete would
have to remind him that he couldn’t quite play like that because he was only a
DJ whereas George was in the Beatles! He
went on to say “George would have loved the way everybody loved him because he
was a very special bloke. He never
really liked the limelight, but he just was a smashing person”.
Pete then introduced Steve Harley whose band also included the original
Cockney Rebel drummer Stuart Elliot.
played at a concert to celebrate the re-opening of the Sefton Park Palm House in
2001. George Harrison had also supported the restoration project.
Steve opened his set with “A Friend For Life”, following on with
“Treat Me Like A Fool”, a Leiber and Stoller 50s song that he’d also
played at another tribute concert. “This is George’s night; here’s one for George, God
bless him!” was a crowd-pleasing intro for “Here Comes The Sun”, a
Harrison song with which Steve Harley also had a hit.
The lighting effects made good use of the two black and white banners
featuring White-album era pictures of George: stylised red and yellow sun-shaped
gobos danced across them in time with the music.
Steve added, “I really believe only this city could have done what
happened in hours. You know
what your money’s going to – there couldn’t be a better cause on Earth”
before finishing with his hit song “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)”.
McTell began by saying “What an honour to be here tonight; a real privilege”
and played the song that first got him noticed, “Streets Of London”.
The audience were singing along from the start, adding to the beauty of
Ralph’s intricate guitar playing. Ralph
concluded his set “George was kind enough to say some nice things about my
work. I never got to meet him, so
that’s why tonight, it’s especially important to me to be here at this
wonderful tribute. I know you know
that George was a very spiritual man and he loved guitar‑playing, and this
is a song about a very spiritual man, a guitar player called Joseph Spence.
This guy was a carpenter from the Bahama Islands and he played the guitar
in a very special way. This is a
little tribute I wrote for him, it’s called The Hands Of Joseph”.
new band called Dare, featuring Darren Wharton from Thin Lizzy was next on
stage. Darren began “It’s a
wonderful honour to be here tonight and it’s very very nice to be asked to be
part of this”. They played
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with a Dire Straits flavour, followed by
their own song “White Horses” and George’s “Something”.
Butler then continued on from Pete Waterman’s teasing, getting the audience to
“Give me a P… Give me an A… Give me a U… Give
me an L!” then thanking them for saying hi to his son up on the balcony.
Georgeson then took the stage for their tribute to George.
They have been playing since 1995 and are very popular with fans at the
annual Liverpool Beatle Week. They
played four George Harrison songs, spanning his song writing career, with the
audience clapping and singing along throughout:
“Got My Mind Set On You” (a cover of Rudy Clark’s original),
“Handle With Care” (from the first Travelling Wilburys album), “I Me
Mine” and “What Is Life?” a song George originally wrote for Billy
Preston, but later recorded himself on All Things Must Pass.
It’s always great to see how authentically Haré Georgeson, fronted by
Rick Alan, can recreate the sound of the original record.
compères then introduced Pete Wilie and friends, a.k.a. The Mighty Wah! who
opened their set with “Badge”, a song co-written by George and Eric Clapton,
with a line from Ringo too! Pete
said that when he was working on his most recent album, he had been pleased to
receive a message from George wishing him good luck from the Scousers.
They then played a song from the album, saying, “It’s for George,
it’s for John, it’s for Bob Wooler, it’s for Bill Shankly, it’s for
anyone you’ve loved and lost… It’s
called Heart As Big As Liverpool”.
next guest flew in from Switzerland in order to take part in the concert.
Shalil Shankar played “Raag Ganesha” on sitar, a composition by Ravi Shankar, accompanied by Mohinder Singh on
Shalil, who has studied sitar under the direction of Ravi Shankar &
who knew George personally, began by saying “I was deeply touched when I was
called to come and take part in this memorial concert.
George loved India; he loved sitar”.
conclude the concert, Haré Georgeson and disciples from the Haré Krishna
Temple in London led the rest of the cast in singing “My Sweet Lord”,
George’s 1971 number one single, and number one again this year when it was
re-released to benefit the Material World Foundation.
The audience were on their feet, singing along – something George would
have been very pleased to see. A
fitting finale to the concert.
Billy and Phil returned to the stage and, while the audience were still clapping
and cheering, thanked everyone involved in the concert, and thanked all the
artistes for giving their time for free.
you know what? You know when you have that horrible feeling you’ve
forgotten something? You know at
the end of a party when you’re trying to get home and there’s some old drunk
comes staggering in, saying “I’ve just got one more number to do”?
I think we might possibly have that old drunk standing in the wings.
Would you like to do the honours, Mr. Butler?”
massive cheer and applause almost blew the roof off as Paul, dressed in a dark
casual suit, came on stage. The
rest of the cast stood back as Paul reminisced about his dear friend.
“Oh yes! Georgie! Thank you. All
right? Thank you.
Well, wasn’t that a great show? I’m
the old drunk staggering on at the end! Erm,
I thought I’d just come on and y’know, just say how much I know George would
have loved this. We used to come
here, y’know, as lads, to watch people like, err, Cliff and the Shadows.
We’d be sitting up there, y’know, before all the Beatles stuff and,
err, here we are now. We used to
take the bus every morning, me and George, in from Speke, the 82.
I used to get on the bus a stop before him, Hardwick Road, and, err, he
lived in Upton Green in Speke, anyone who knows Speke?
…And so, y’know, we, we had a great friendship even before the
Beatles or anything, and before I met John.
We’d come in and, say, every morning we’d talk about guitars and rock
‘n’ roll and all of that, and so, like I say, I thought I’d just come on.
I haven’t, err, prepared anything, I thought, well, it’s just showing
up, it’s just being part of it, and for the great charity, for all the money
that’s been raised this evening for the charity, that’s worth coming anyway
for all of us isn’t it? So I
thought, well, I can’t leave without doing some kind of song, and what I
thought… So here’s one I didn’t prepare earlier.
What I thought I’d do, in the key of F, alright, this is for George,
then sang an a capella “Yesterday”, solo at first, but soon joined by
the rest of the cast and the audience. Paul
fittingly changed the words to “Why he had to go, I don’t know, he
wouldn’t say” but lightened the mood of the song by adding in vocals between
phrases, imitating the bass line of the original song.
A very brave and special way to finish the evening, leaving the audience
thrilled that he had come along, but sharing the sadness that he felt.
Another huge cheer heralded the end of the song, and Paul wound the night
up, thanking the charity representatives and saying, “Thanks everybody for
coming! Thank you all for coming!
Thanks everybody for being beautiful people.
George would have loved this! See
you next time! Haré Krishna!”
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