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Published October 1st, 2003 | by Ed Colley

Concert for George Review

Classification: PG Director: David Leland

When someone passes before their time, it is quite common for events to be held in their memory. It is quite uncommon, however, for such events to be held at the Royal Albert Hall. Or for hundreds of people to turn up. Or for some of those people to include the likes of Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar and Sir Paul McCartney. Yet when the event is held in the memory of one of the UK’s most famous and best-loved sons, whose music has been, and still is, listened to throughout the world, it all makes a bit more sense. It also leads to Concert for George, a film that held its UK premiere on Wednesday 8th October, and which Future Movies was fortunate enough to attend.

Concert for George is the film of said concert, which was organised by Olivia Harrison and Eric Clapton as a tribute to their (respectively) dearly departed husband and friend, George Harrison. Held on the 29th November – the one-year anniversary of George’s passing – the concert included music that George either wrote or particularly loved, played by his family and close friends, with proceeds donated to The Material World Charitable Foundation.

If you’ve never really given much thought to the music of George Harrison, or if the prospect of Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Joe Brown, Jules Holland, Paul McCartney and Ravi Shankar sharing a stage engenders no excitement from your person, then you are not really going to enjoy this film. Which is a shame, because you’ll be missing out on being witness to an event that is not only consumed by a musicality of the highest order, but which is also brimming over with the collective love and admiration of someone who clearly touched many hearts.

Whatever you think about the standard of music produced by the likes of Clapton, McCartney and Petty today, there is no doubt that these boys know how to play guitar and can make a real impact on the stage. When this is coupled with tunes such as ‘My Sweet Lord’, ‘Isn’t it a Pity’ and ‘Whilst My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and the fact that these guys are expressing their emotion and grief for George Harrison through this music, it means that you have the privilege of watching icons stripped of their celebrity baggage and playing like they mean it.

David Leland, the director of Concert for George, has mirrored the authenticity of these performances, producing a clear, uncluttered film, devoid of any off-putting camera trickery or self-conscious direction. Understanding the stand-alone impact of having George’s music played by George’s friend, Leland has separated his film into three inter-merging parts: the rehearsal of the concert, which displays the easy affection held between the main players of the concert; the concert itself, the majority of which is simply shot, using a variety of stock camera angles; and a variety of ‘talking heads’, with contributors to the concert, such as Ravi Shankar, Eric Clapton and Joe Brown, discussing their relationships with George and what being involved in the concert meant to them.

By making a film almost devoid of cinematic flourishes, Leland ensures attention is focused on the concert rather than the film itself (although he does produce a lovely shot towards the end of the film, looking down from the ceiling of the Hall as confetti gently billows onto the heads of the naturally ‘loved-up’ crowd). The point of Concert for George is to give people who weren’t able to attend the event the opportunity to experience it. It doesn’t set out to be an Oscar-winning rockumentary, and is all the more enjoyable because of it.

Highlights of the film will basically correspond to which Harrison tunes you most enjoy. This reviewer has a soft spot for ‘My Sweet Lord’ and he’s not afraid to admit it, so watching the whole crew doing a foot-stomping rendition of this much-loved classic was quite special (particularly with McCartney and Clapton sitting a few rows behind. But enough of the high-flying celebrity circles FM is increasingly finding itself mixing with). Undoubtedly, different people will enjoy different parts, and proper fans will probably enjoy the whole shebang. Even if you don’t fancy the idea of seeing this film in the cinema, you are advised to buy the DVD when it’s released. Not only will this be a great prezzie for all Dads everywhere, but it’ll also give you a chance to watch the best bits of a great concert and a very decent film.

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