Dhani Harrison At The Echo, Monday July 24th 2017
There’s something so appealing and cute about Dhani Harrison, first he is the son of the quietest of the Beatles and he resembles very much to his late father, then he writes music as his father was doing, but the sound he produces bears little resemblance with his father’s Here-Comes-the-Sun melodies.
Harrison has been a rare performer, I haven’t heard him touring or even playing shows since a series of performances with his band thenewno2 in 2013-4, and I caught him only once live. On Monday night, he played a show at the Echo and I still don’t understand why they hadn’t booked the Echoplex instead of the small Echo venue … the show had obviously sold out very fast and may be it was just what Dhani wanted, a small stage where he could barely fit all his equipment? Because there was a lot of stuff on stage and if I am totally unqualified to give all the details of what was there, I can only say that his music requires a lot of instruments, electronics, and pedals of all genres. The club was really packed and the line to get in on the sidewalk was very impressive, as it was going around the block… I (successfully) tried to infiltrate the thick layer of people that had built up around the small stage and I was able to get a decent spot considering the conditions. You could tell that the crowd was a bit different from the other days, there were out of town people and some ‘old’ ones, at least older than your average Echo attendees, probably checking what George’s son was up to. And that’s the problem when you are the son of a Beatle, I saw James McCartney not a long time ago, and it was a very similar situation.
Harrison was playing there to preview a few tracks from his upcoming and first solo album, ‘N///PARALLEL’ due in October via BMG, and he certainly played some of them, like the very atmospheric ‘Summertime Police’, slowly sprawling its rocking effects inside the small venue. Dhani’s music is often stormy and moody with anxious vocals, it’s layered with all kinds of electronics and guitar solos, it vibrates then explodes into more complexity. It’s a giant soundscape and it is honestly closer to what Radiohead could be doing (I know it’s a lazy comparison but it is the best I can find) than to what George Harrison ever did. These complicated arrangements do not come as a surprise when you learn that Dhani has been busy writing soundtracks for movies, like the one he did for ‘Seattle Road’ and ‘Beautiful Creatures’ in collaboration with Paul Hicks (thenewno2). These soundtracks sounded at the right place when he played some of them.
Of course when you have an equipment that sophisticated on stage, you are never safe from some technical difficulties, and there were a few of them during the show, but Dhani managed to not appear too disturbed by a mute mic or ukulele, although he seemed at times a bit upset. At the top of all his instruments, he was surrounded by a lot of musicians (guitarist Noah Harmon (The Airborne Toxic Event), keyboardist Josh Giroux (Big Black Delta and Gary Numan), drummer Chris Hornbrook (Poison the Well and Big Black Delta), and bassist Blas Perez (Big Black Delta)) and he even brought back on stage his friend Mereki for a few songs, as the pretty Australian had opened the night with her own brand of poignant songs and disco ball ballads. Together, they sang the new track ‘Poseidon’, which involved Dhani’s second voice… I guess it has definitively become an habit for young singer-songwriters to use this vocoder thing, and if I am not a fan of the effect, the contrast between Mereki’s sweet vocals and Dhani’s robotic groan was certainly the most striking character of the song, which ascended into futuristic psychedelia. Another new song, the ferocious ‘#WarOnFalse’, brought even more aggression, minus the vocoder, and that was a good thing for me.
Fans recognized a few other songs of his band thenewno2, like ‘So Vain’ and its furious explosive layers of electronica and distressed vocals, but we were treated by only one other new song ‘All About Waiting’, sang in duo with another female friend, and, below its raging and bombastic crescendo, the track had a catchier melody than the other ones. There were more thenewno2 songs and another one, from the rock band Fistful of Mercy, featuring Dhani, Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur… which says a lot about Dhani’s versatility … Being not familiar enough with his work, I honestly could not differentiate the new songs from the old ones, or his solo material from the one from his diverse collaborations,… however, people who were here to listen to his new material may have been a bit frustrated by the diversity of the material he played?
Harrison’s music shook up the place multiple times with the band’s savant and elaborated mix of electronica and real instruments, he often looked much more preoccupied by a certain ambiance and atmosphere than a real melody, and he reached a powerful electro bluesy distortion during the last one, ‘Yomp’, which buzzed into many layers of psychedelia. It was a fierce and tender set at the same time, the vocals could be as poignant and melancholic as a Beatle song – and this is where the only closeness could reside – but I am not sure if these people, these old Beatles fans who had lined up around the block before the show, did find what they were looking for.
My Eye (Seattle Road Soundtrack)
The Sharp Knife (Seattle Road Soundtrack)
Poseidon (Keep Me Safe)
So Vain (thenewno2)
All About Waiting
Things Go Around (Fistful of Mercy)
Make It Home (thenewno2)