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Vancouver audiences scratch their heads, and local critics sharpen their claws, as George Harrison kicks off his disastrous 30-date North American Tour with a performance at the Pacific Coliseum.
“A slight percentage of the knowledgeable did enjoy it,” complains Sun Music Critic Don Stanley, “a slightly larger percentage attempted to look intelligent, and the rest of us suffered. It’s either to the credit or the shame of Vancouver audiences that only a few people yelled ‘Boogie’, and that one girl cried ‘Unbutton your overalls, George!’”
Harrison does himself few favours with the audience by tampering with the lyrics of classic Beatles numbers (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, for example, is changed to “While My Guitar Tries to Smile”), and the tour itself (known derisively by critics as the ‘Dark Hoarse’ tour, due to Harrison’s thoroughly thrashed vocals) will meet with poor reception – and sometimes open hostility throughout North America.
“[The band] couldn’t adequately cover up for Harrison’s vocals,” Stanley continues. “He attempted to storm through the material, a la Dylan’s recent magnificent tour, and ended up agonizingly hoarse. As a showman, he was utterly eclipsed by Billy Preston – ‘I see I’ll have to pay him more money,’ Harrison said weakly, after Preston’s ‘Outta Space’ finally released the audience’s frustrated energy.”
And, in a move that further alienates concertgoers, Harrison decides to supplement his own material with two sets performed by sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar.
“This will be educational,” Harrison declares. “I’d die for Indian music, but I wouldn’t die for this [tapping his electric guitar]. Don’t have preconceived ideas, and maybe you’ll like it.”
Stanley, for his part, is unimpressed, declaring “Ravi Shankar’s two sets drained away excitement as effectively as feedback.”
Thus far, 1974 has been an unfortunate year for Harrison; it marked the end of his recording contract with EMI Records, and the end of his relationship with wife Patti Boyd, who recently left him for Eric Clapton. The reviews of Harrison’s tour, his lingering laryngitis, and the critically-loathed “Dark Horse” album which follows will prove so discouraging for the guitarist, that he will make only make rare live appearances over the rest of his career, and he will never again tour North America.
IMAGE: Pacific Coliseum Program for the November 2, 1974 North American Tour kickoff. Missing text at the bottom reads: ‘All proceeds from the sale of this program will go to the Appalachian Regional Hospitals, Inc.’