The Concert for George

When George Harrison died, the outpouring of emotion was palpable. It reminded everybody that even the greatest people are mortal. He was also the second Beatle to pass one, which demonstrates (whether people want to accept it or not) the passage of time. The Concert for George is a concert documentary of a historic one-night concert that took place on November 29th, 2002, and London's Royal Albert Hall. It was exactly one year after Harrison's passing, and served as a celebration for Harrison.

The caliber of artist there was certainly phenomenal. The unofficial hosts were Eric Clapton, George's son Dhani, and Jeff Lynne. Other people that showed up were surviving Beatles Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, Joe Brown, Ravi Shankar, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The performances are notable for their heartfelt nature. This is not a group of people coming together to make a quick buck. These are friends of George Harrison who want to remember him by playing his music. And the love for their friend comes through in their music. Harrison has been in rock circles so long that everybody feels that they know him somehow, so a tribute like this is only fitting.

Director David Leland (Running Wild, The Land Girls) alternates between actual performances and rehearsals. It is a little disconcerting, since he interrupts the music a lot, or splices together practice sessions with the actual performance. Since Leland made the decision to have a minimum amount of dialogue or much of anything else, switching back and forth is one of the few missteps he makes. The other is a complete lack of artist identification. Sure, McCartney, Starr, Clapton and Petty are easy to recognize, but Brown, Lynne, and some of the other artists are not, especially for younger people. But these are small complaints, especially when he focuses on Harrison's music.

Surprisingly, one of the best moments comes from a reunited Monty Python (with special guest Tom Hanks, Catch Me if You Can, Road to Perdition) who bring down the house with "Sit on My Face" and "The Lumberjack Song." The presence of Shankar and his daughter Anoushka show the diversity of influences that went into Harrison's work, especially his later material. The individual songs are good, but when the artists join together things get better. One of the highlights is a Traveling Wilburys semi-reunion (minus Roy Orbison, Harrison, and a still living Bob Dylan) between Lynne and Petty. Other highlights are...well, pretty much the entire second half is great. Many of the individual performers are on stage singing and playing together, just having a good time. And both the audience and the viewer can feel and understand their fun.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some risque humor.

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