Memories of the "Concert For George"

29 November 2002 - 19:30

A Concert for George

Whispering Bob Harris

Unforgettable experience

The Royal Albert Hall has been at the heart of my musical life for more than half a century.  

Whether arriving through the grand main entrance or the iconic stage door, I’ve visited this glorious venue countless times.  From Cream’s farewell performance in 1968 to the BBC Proms in 2022, I have loved spending time here.  It is a very special place and I remain, to this day, awestruck by the magnificence of the building, the beauty of the auditorium and the attention to detail that makes the Royal Albert Hall one of the most acoustically accurate venues in the world.

I have been fortunate to walk out onto the stage and into the lights many times over the past fifty years, and I have witnessed, from the stalls, the boxes and the gods, great gigs that will live in my memory for ever.  Every one of these evenings have been special in some way, but none has burned more deeply and indelibly into my soul than ‘The Concert For George’, the tribute concert to George Harrison, organised by his widow Olivia and his son Dhani, arranged under the musical direction of Eric Clapton and staged on the 29th November 2002.   

Even as I approached the building that night, I could feel the vibe.  A sweet smell of incense drifted through the evening air and, as I joined the audience, the sense of anticipation was beyond belief.  It was transcendental.  We were all bonded by the excitement of seeing some of the greatest artists of our time perform some of the best songs ever written and in the room because of our deep affection for George and his music.  I felt honoured to be there and as the concert began, I closed my eyes and surrendered myself to this enveloping feeling of beauty and love.

It was wonderful to listen to a line-up that so closely replicated the Beatles, with Paul and Ringo playing with obvious joy alongside Dhani Harrison and Eric Clapton, who recreated his stunning solo on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.  For me, it was one of the highlights of the entire evening.  As if driven by a higher power, Eric took the song and the solo to a whole new level of shimmering brilliance.  

But perhaps the most touching and poignant moment of all was a truly beautiful performance of ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ by George’s long-time friend Joe Brown, accompanying himself on the ukulele, one of George’s favourite instruments.  As the number began and the orchestra joined in, thousands of flower petals gently cascaded down onto the players, the stage and the audience, a fitting finale of fragrance and colour.

It was the kind of moment this beautiful building was made for.  It was magnificent.

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