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Michigan Boogie

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George Harrison came to terrible, old Olympia Stadium in Detroit Wednesday, December 4, and rocked us solid. Not so coincidentally, Olympia was the scène of Harrison's last appearance in Detroit - in 1965 along with three other blokes known collectively as The Beatles. But, according to advance notice of the tour, Harrison was determined to transcend the confining specter of his Beatle years: "Why live in the past? Be here now and now, whether you like me or not, this is what I am." The slight defensiveness of that statement was the result of some critical public and press commentary on the post-Beatle Harrison. Many folks found it hard to accept his humbleness in performance, his reluc tance to play any of the old Beatle tunes, and his unseemly deference to Ravi Shankar who was also on the tour. Certainly it was almost strictly because of his former membership in the Fab Four that he was in any position at all to organize a $4 million, 7-week tour. And it was mostly the thrilling prospect of experiencing that old Beatle magie that had brought people out to dig George in the flesh at the Concert for Bangla-Desh, his last public appearance, not (and I don 't mean to be uncharitable) their selfless desire to help the starving, brown-skinned masses half a world away. Since their break-up, The Beatles individually have been, deliberately or not, about their de-mystifïcation. This doesn't mean, although we shoulda known better, that, as Paul Grant pointed out in these pages not too long ago, we don't "hold our collective breath whenever a new rumor that the Beatles are re-forming hits the street." But J, P, G, and R's post-Beatle musical and extra-musical antics have long since convinced me that the dream is indeed over. I really hadn't any intention of going to see George when the tour was first announced, especially not at $9.50 a hit. However, when A & M Records laid a pass on the SUN, I figured I could satisfy what curiosity I did feel at the riglit price and made my plans to go. To his credit, George managed to rock eonvincingly with only tlie most token referenccs to the uld days. It was a very good show. Harrison's hand-picked band included Billy Preston, the "fifth Beatle," keyboards and vocals: drummer Andy Newmark, formerly with Sly Stone, and bassist Willie Weeks. Newmark and Weeks had played with Ronnie Wood (of the Faces) on his solo album, as had George. Much of the lead guitar work was done by Robben Ford from Torn Scott's L.A. Express. Saxophonist Scott, the wimp.-was also there and he chose the other two guys in the horn section. We missed the first tune due to the dense traffic jam tliat backed us up ten or twelve blocks - both shows had sold out. As we sat down the band kicked into "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I waited with particular interest to hear what George would do with his solo - you'll remember that on the "White Album," although uncredited, Eric Clapton played the lead, as he did at the Concert for Bangla Desh. Anyway, George's solo was pretty weak . . . when you could hèar it at all over the horns. (Thát solo was just another convincing testament to the genius of the Beatles. They'd never given George enough rope to hang himself and his short filis were always tasty.) The house was feeling high and happy and gave the onstage gang a big hand. The tender "Something" was next except this time around it wasn't very tender. Once again the band was doin' it to death much to the poor display of George's already hoarse voice. Billy Preston sang the lead next on his own "Will It Go Round In Circles" which was the high point of the concert to that moment (some critics had earlier referred to the tour as "the Billy Preston Show"). George took over on "Sue Me, Sue You Blues" from "Living in the Material World" and then it was abruptly time for the Indian contingent. According to Ravi Shankar, it had always been his dream to bring to this country a number of good Indian musicians. Harrison had always encouraged him and Ravi, in turn, had insisted that George must also take part in it. Thus the origins of this tour. As it turned out, the saintly Ravissimo got sick and had to stay behind in Chicago. While George explained this to the crowd, momentum was lost and attentions scattered. "Anybody out there listening or are you all talking to yourselves?" he asked rather bitterly. Detroit, in their world-renowned tradition, jeered. The show went on. Lakshmi Shankaf got up in front of 25 or so Indian and rock musicians and waved them though a pulsing ditty called "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom." The crowd ate it up and the musicians seemed to be having a damn good time too. Indeed this whole portion of the show went over surprisingly well, especially one tune called "Cheparte" (Hot Stuff) which featured an astonishing "Battle" between Alia Rakha, table, and T.V. Gopalkrishnan, murdangam, which is a barrel-shaped drum struck with the hands at both ends. At intermission George enjoined us to go out and buy a program because the proceeds were to ga to the Appalachian Regional Hospitals. The net profits from his San Francisco concert were donated to the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. George has said that he hopes these charitable actions will start a ripple that'll reach other rock musicians. "For You Blue" opened the second half of the show. It was well done but my attention was distracted by a fight between a couple of music-lovers a few rows directly in front of us. It was mostly unnotable except that promoter Bill Graham himself appeared from out of nowhere to smooth things out with admirable good humor and grace. Harrison introduced a "Song by an old friend" and proceeded to do Lennon's "In My Life," changing the lyrics to "In my life I love God more." This weirded-out most of the folks near me and seemed audacious and siüy. Billy Preston resurfaced again to do "Nuthin From Nuthin" and "Space Race" which forced 1 6,000 rockers up to dance on their chairs. This was as high as things got all night. George and the band launched into "Give Me Love" on the momentum of Preston's tunes but couldn't quite keep it up. Still, when G walked offstage a standing ovation commenced which never diminished in intensity for nearly three full minutes and upon the band's return the roar increased to such a pitch that I instantly flashed back to that time over nine years ago when I'd sat in the same arena and yelled my head off with all the rest of my generation for the Beatles. "My Sweet Lord" was the capper and George spent time chanting "Christ, Krishna, Allah" etc, which effectively brought me down. But that Holy Rock and Roller was more animated than he'd been all night and was clearly relishing the opportunity to advise the pagan sea before him that "Whatever you cali Him, just cali Him." In the spirit of religious toleration, I can forgive him his trespass and concéntrate on and thank the very ex-Beatle for those moments he gave us that old-time, undiluted, Rock 'N Roll relieion.