Something About Productions
Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
June 18-19, 2022; 2 hrs
(also King's Hall, Ilkley, July 8; Theatre Royal, St Helens, Feb 24, 2023. The show can also be seen at the Edinburgh fringe festival, August 4-18)
There's certainly something about sitting in the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool (named after the manager himself) in a crowd of Beatles fans waiting to see this George Harrison story on stage.
For a start, no-one is ever more than a step away from having known someone who knew him, and many a semi-private anecdote circles the room about Harrison. "George, of course, hated tribute bands and once had to step in to show the Bootleg Beatles how it was done." "Did you know the sizeable donation he gave to save a local landmark, just because someone asked him to?" A picture builds of a private but kind and certainly generous man with more inclination toward spirituality than fame. This is a nostalgic and joyous occasion, "in Liverpool", as Carol Ann Duffy once put it, "which cannot say goodbye".
The show itself is more a celebration concert with narration from the ever-ready Daniel Taylor, whose recent shoulder injury we related here. But the show must go on, and go on it did, though Taylor was unable to embody George as fully as he clearly wanted to with a guitar performance.
Despite the unfortunate musical castration, Taylor's professionalism was valiant. His left hand slung to his side, he hid any discomfort with good-hand tambourine shaking, performative rock distortions in song where we were never quite sure whether or not they were hiding the pain. His inability to lean forward to bow at the end revealed that they probably were.
We could be picky about the need to read from stands, the occasional tuning issues with, to be fair, a large number of guitars on stage. Dramaturgically, the first half ended abruptly, and the second half should have started with a musical bang.
But ultimately we came for the stories and the songs. And in among an extended back-catalogue there were some corkers. My Sweet Lord was a triumph. And the tale of George's response, when criticised for entwining the Hare Krishna Hindu call to prayer with the Christian Halleluia, being that they were "quite the same thing", left me almost tearful.
Taylor chose not to imitate George's voice in song, but did a slightly brasher version of Something and a repurposed Here Comes the Sun, toning it down again for Dark Sweet Lady. All Things Must Pass was truly beautiful, and the show culminated in a unique version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. And why not, since, George, by all local accounts, hated tribute bands.
Guitarist Jonny Darnell deserves a mention for stepping in to fill the Taylor's guitar gap, and Callum MacMillan's drums were steady, balanced and stylistic. But it was the weeping guitar of Jon Fellowes and the expert keys of Jordan Alexander, with truly beautiful backing vocals from both, that kept the musical ship sailing. Perhaps a future version of the show might incorporate the iconic sitar, and give us more of the psychedelia and Eastern spiritualism in the music that we heard about in the narrative. But all things considered, right now that seems like a big ask.
Something About George is one for the aficionados, the Liverpudlians and the music fans. An intimate show for everyone who loved George, and who loves music played live.
More information here