Asked by his friend Ravi Shankar for advice on how to raise money to help the people of Bangladesh, the area of East Pakistan that had been ravaged by civil war and famine, ex-Beatle George Harrison put together the all-star benefit concert seen here. Filmed in front of 20,000 fans at
New York's Madison Square Gardens on August 1, 1971, THE CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH showcases Harrison at the peak of his solo career, and also features fine performances from Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, and Ringo Starr.
The film opens with an excerpt from a press conference at which Harrison and Shankar explain the purpose of the concert. Onstage, Harrison introduces Shankar and asks the audience's patience for a section of Indian music. (Enthusiastic but apparently unfamiliar with Indian music, the crowd
applauds loudly at what turns out to be the musicians tuning up.)
After Shankar, Harrison takes the stage accompanied by a band consisting of everyone who showed up to play (with the exception of the Indian musicians and Bob Dylan). With three electric and three acoustic guitars, two drummers, two bass players, organ and piano, as well as a horn section and
backup singers, the ensemble does a strong job of reproducing producer Phil Spector's "wall of sound" from Harrison's recent hit album All Things Must Pass. After Harrison sings three songs from that album -- "Wah-Wah," "My Sweet Lord," and "Awaiting on You All"--he gives the spotlight to Billy
Preston, who does a rousing version of his gospel-flavored "That's the Way God Planned It." Ringo Starr follows with "It Don't Come Easy." Harrison returns to the fore to sing "Beware of Darkness" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," with Eric Clapton playing lead guitar (as he did on the Beatles's
Leon Russell provides one of the shows highlights with a medley of "Jumpin Jack Flash" and "Youngblood." As the other musicians take a break, Harrison is joined by Pete Ham of the ill-fated group Badfinger (who provide acoustic guitars and percussion throughout) on "Here Comes the Sun." The
previously unannounced Bob Dylan (at the time something of a recluse) sings "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," "Blowin' in the Wind," and "Just Like a Woman" (but not "Mr. Tambourine Man," which is on the soundtrack album). He is accompanied by
Harrison on guitar, Russell on bass, and Ringo on tambourine. The full band returns for "Something" and an encore of "Bangla Desh."
THE CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH (actually there were two concerts, an afternoon and evening show on the same day) is occasionally less crisp to view than audiences used to MTV might prefer; the art of concert photography wasn't very advanced at the time, and more attention was paid to recording the
sound than to filming the performers. Nevertheless, it's a rare chance to see a once-in- a-lifetime ensemble including such seldom-glimpsed Beatle footnotes as Klaus Voorman and Badfinger. Although Harrison invited his former partners to perform, presumably as part of the ensemble, only Ringo
Starr showed up. Paul McCartney rejected the offer, afraid it would be taken as a Beatles reunion; John Lennon initially accepted, but backed out when he realized the invitation didn't include wife Yoko Ono. Nevertheless, Harrison shines with a selection of his best solo and Beatles songs.
The concerts raised nearly $250,000 which was presented to UNICEF, and it was anticipated that much more money would be raised from the film and album. Sadly, that was not to be the case, as legal entanglements with the record companies of the different artists, American and British tax
authorities, and manager Allan Klein ate up most of the $15 million in total proceeds.
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- Released: 1972
- Rating: NR
- Review: Asked by his friend Ravi Shankar for advice on how to raise money to help the people of Bangladesh, the area of East Pakistan that had been ravaged by civil war and famine, ex-Beatle George Harrison put together the all-star benefit concert seen here. Film… (more)