On November 29, 2002, a tribute concert for George Harrison was held at The Royal Albert Hall. The concert featured many of Harrison’s closest and dearest friends, including bandmades Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Eric Clapon, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Billy Preston and members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A very young Dhani Harrison also performed, capping off an incredibly emotional evening.
The Concert For George was professionally recorded and has since been re-released several times over in a variety of formats, including CD, vinyl, DVD, and Blu-Ray. In 2022, the concert film returned to theaters for a limited time in honor of its 20th anniversary. The new Dolby Atmos mix was created by longtime Beatles collaborator Paul Hicks for this theatrical release, though it’s also available to stream on Apple Music and on a limited-run Blu-Ray disc from SuperDeluxeEdition.com.
The concert begins with “Sarveshaam,” a heartfelt traditional prayer spoken by Ravi Shankar. This leads directly into Shankar’s original composition “Your Eyes,” beautifully performed by his daughter Anoushka. Following a performance of Harrison’s “The Inner Light” – featuring Jeff Lynne on lead vocals and Dhani Harrison on backing vocals – Anoushka is back with another Ravi Shankar composition, “Arpan.”
In Dolby Atmos, this portion of the concert is absolutely breathtaking. Hicks uses the additional speakers sparingly, instead opting for a more natural presentation. It’s not dissimilar to the 5.1 surround mix created by Ryan Ulyate for the original DVD release, but this version is perhaps more subdued and tranquil at times.
The sound quality is excellent as well, even on the PCM stereo mix which is different from the prior releases. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to believe that it’s not a studio recording! It’s certainly one of the best-sounding live recordings I’ve heard to date.
After an intermission of sorts featuring members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, we move into the rock ‘n’ roll portion of the evening. Jeff Lynne returns to the stage to kick things off with a stirring version of “I Want To Tell You,” followed by Clapton with “If I Needed Someone.”
Gary Brooker then takes a turn at “Old Brown Shoe”, while Lynne is back for “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” and Clapton with the All Things Must Pass deep cut “Beware Of Darkness.”
The real stars of the show are Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Starr provides an emotional version of “Photograph”, a song he co-wrote with Harrison. He then performs “Honey Don’t,” a song that Harrison loved and The Beatles performed many times.
It’s then McCartney's turn on stage, first with a brilliant rendition of “For You Blue” and then a heartbreaking version of “All Things Must Pass.”
He’s joined by Clapton for a terrific version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – for which Clapton originally contributed guitar – and “Wah-Wah.” Finally, Billy Preston brings down the house with an incredible take on “My Sweet Lord.”
This audio-only Blu-ray was a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait. The Concert For George is an iconic tribute to an amazing artist whose music will always be part of the musical lexicon. Here, the music is given the treatment it so richly deserves and the outcome is spectacular.