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George Harrison live: Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver

George Harrison and Ravi Shankar’s 1974 North American tour kicked off at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, Canada, on 2 November 1974.

The 30-date tour was to promote Harrison’s Dark Horse album and Dark Horse Records label, and took in 45 concerts in 26 cities. It was the first North American tour by a former Beatle, and Harrison’s first live performance since the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971.

The audience was made up mostly of long-haired, jeans clad youths and many of them left grumbling. If they were looking for some magical, mysterious return to Beatle music, what they got was a lot of gospel and soul rock, interspersed with an occasional Harrison tune… But the show was far from a disappointment in a musical sense. Harrison was backed by a heavyweight band, in fact he was more of a guest in the group than a member of it. It was in the first 45-minute set that the crowd began to realize that Harrison’s role was to be mostly that of an emcee… It was a sheer delight to listen to the varied sounds from sitar, tabla, flute and other stringed instruments. Harrison brought back Shankar’s orchestra for a valid, viable marriage of musical cultures. The show concluded with a Krishna musical prayer, but the clamor for an encore resulted in the small group returning to play Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’.
John Wenderborn
The Oregonian

Harrison’s band included Billy Preston on vocals, keyboards, organ, and clavinet; Robben Ford on guitars and vocals; Tom Scott and Jim Horn on saxophone and flute; Chuck Findley on trumpet and flute; Willie Weeks on bass guitar; Andy Newmark on drums; Emil Richards on marimba and percussion; and Kumar Shankar on percussion and vocals. Jim Keltner joined the tour midway through on 27 November.

Ravi Shankar’s orchestra featured Shankar on sitar; Lakshmi Shankar on vocals and swarmandal; Alla Rakha on tabla; TV Gopalkrishnan on vocals, mridangam, and khanjira; Hariprasad Chaurasia on bansuri; Shivkumar Sharma on santoor and vocals; Kartick Kumar on sitar; Sultan Khan on sarangi; Gopal Krishan on vichitra veena and vocals; L Subramaniam on South Indian violin; Satyadev Pawar on North Indian violin; Rijram Desad on pakavaj, dholki, nagada, huduk, and duff; Kamalesh Maitra on tabla tarang, duggi tarang, and madal tarang; Harihar Rao on kartal, manjira, dholak, gubgubbi, and vocals; and Viji Shankar on tambura and vocals.

A negative feature on the tour in Rolling Stone set much of its subsequent reputation:

Holy Krishna! What kind of an opening night for George Harrison is this? Ravi Shankar asks for silence and no smoking during his music. Silence is very important, he says, because music is eternal, and out of the silence comes the music. Something like that. But, instead, out of the audience comes this piercing death cry, followed by a rain of war whoops. After a few numbers, people start shouting, ‘Get funky!’ and ‘Rock and roll!’

In the press box at PNE Coliseum in Vancouver, one reporter is guessing that the Sanskrit letter for Om, illuminated in shadowboxes at either end of the stage, is actually the Indian dollar sign. Another insists it means ‘No Smoking.’

Harrison, meantime, is hoarse from the beginning and strains through each song. Billy Preston eventually perks up the show with two numbers in the second half, but the night sputters to a conclusion with more Indian music, more cries for rock and roll and, in the end, Harrison receiving a perfunctory encore call. He performs ‘My Sweet Lord’, and out of the silence comes the silence – a still and seated audience with only the front section clapping along…

There were other problems: The shows suffered from sound mixes that buried many instruments and from poor structuring. The Vancouver concert, for instance, included two appearances by Ravi Shankar’s orchestra, which, for many in the audience, was at least one too many. Introducing ‘our little pal’ Shankar and orchestra for their second set, Harrison seemed to note the lack of excitement in the air. He put in an urgent plug for Indian music: ‘I’d die for it,’ he said, and tapped his electric guitar – ‘but not for this.’ After the opening night disaster, a lackluster hotel gathering turned into a series of meetings with Ravi, Tom Scott, Billy Preston and Harrison. Shankar suggested a restructuring of the show. ‘It was just showbiz,’ said Scott. ‘No one wanted Ravi to come out to a hostile audience.’ […]

On paper, without mentioning the drive of Andy Newmark’s drumming, the color of Emil Richards’s percussion work, the solidity of Willie Weeks’s bass, the vocal (and sweeping keyboard) help rendered by Billy Preston, the exuberant rock and blues guitar of Robben Ford, and the brilliant horn work of Tom Scott, the concert sounds pretty dreadful. But it wasn’t quite that bad.

For one thing, before each show there was a mood of expectation, and in Vancouver, that itself was a show. The audience ignited matches, of course, plus $1.39 butane lighters, paper torches and sparklers (which several people cleverly heaved into other parts of the crowd, hot-wiring unsuspecting victims). Everywhere, one could still detect faint traces of Beatlemania. A 20-year-old woman outside the Seattle Center Coliseum spotted Harrison arriving and ran into a crowd screeching, ‘I saw him! I saw his glasses! I saw his nose!’ A younger woman, in a George Harrison T-shirt, cried uncontrollably in the front row in Vancouver.

Ben Fong-Torres
Rolling Stone, 19 December 1974

Concert setlist

Dark Horse Tour dates

Last updated: 4 January 2024
UK single release: Junior's Farm by Paul McCartney and Wings
US single release: Junior's Farm by Paul McCartney and Wings
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