Review: Something About George at Liverpool Theatre Festival ***1/2
It’s 20 years this November since the much-loved, much-missed George Harrison died at the age of just 58.
In his family’s words, the ‘quiet’ Beatle slipped away “conscious of God, fearless of death and at peace”, leaving a rich catalogue of music and an appeal for everyone to ‘love one another’.
Gone, but not forgotten, and now brought out from behind the more persistent musical voices of Lennon and McCartney to become the deserved star of this new show which comes from the same team behind the successful Something About Simon – the Paul Simon Story.
Something About George (the George Harrison Story to give it its full title), presented here at the close of this year's Liverpool Theatre Festival as a pilot in a reduced ‘festival format’, follows the same formula with biography woven together with quotes and, of course, music, performed live on stage.
It’s certainly got bags of potential – a likeable subject and some great tunes delivered with punch along with great vocal harmonies by the three-strong cast Daniel Taylor, guitarist Jon Fellowes (co-writer with Gareth Tudor-Price) and keyboard player Ben Gladwin.
The elements are all there, even if at the moment the presentation still needs some finessing.
After a brief mention of Harrison’s birth in Arnold Grove, Wavertree, the story jumps to the final, turbulent, years of the Beatles and uses it as a launchpad to consider his solo years, spirituality and untimely demise.
Above; The garden for George at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2008. Top: Something About George at the Bombed Out Church - photo by David Munn
There’s an argument to be had that Harrison’s post-Beatles work really peaked with his first major solo outing, the triple album All Things Must Pass – released in the shadow of the biggest band the world had ever seen and whose tracks were written while in the competitively creative company of Lennon and McCartney.
Certainly, most of the most memorable numbers in this show are either those Harrison recorded while still in the Beatles or finished in the lasting glow of the group’s sunset – songs like If Not For You, I’d Have You Any Time, Wah-Wah, Something (I’d love them to consider doing the Anthology version live on stage) and All Things Must Pass.
Later in the evening there’s a jaunty rendition of his tribute to the memory of John Lennon, All Those Years Ago, and an upbeat Got My Mind Set on You from his resurgence in the late 80s.
Harrison, however, had wider interests than just the recording studio as narrator/singer/guitarist Daniel Taylor relates, forging the path for future fundraising spectaculars with his Concert For Bangladesh, financing the Pythons and setting up his own Handmade Films and co-creating the first real supergroup The Traveling Wilburys.
Daniel Taylor. Photo by David Munn
The bulk of the storytelling sits in the 1970s, and his final few years are condensed into the final third of the truncated show – I assume they get more attention in the full version where I hope there might also be a nod to his hi-jinks with Rutland Weekend Television and its cheeky spin-off The Rutles.
But Harrison’s spirit and singular voice - gentle and wry (when Pattie Boyd ended up with his best mate Eric Clapton he reportedly said: “I love Eric a lot, I’d rather she was with him than some dope.”) shines through, and so does his music.
Meanwhile this mini ‘Concert for George’ ends back where it began, with his thoughtful late Beatle numbers Here Comes the Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.