I first became aware of Dhani Harrison in 2003 while watching the concert film, “Concert for George.” At one point, Sir Paul McCartney said, referring to Dhani onstage, something to the effect that “we all got old, but George stayed the same.” Indeed, the physical resemblance with his beloved father is startling, but the younger Harrison has made his way as a musician on his own terms as evidenced by his show at U Street Music Hall on Nov. 7.
Tuesday night, an enthusiastic crowd was reminded what hard work and earning an audience entails… and what the payoff can be. Though he’s performed with, and learned from, a musical who’s who (Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, Pearl Jam, Prince, Eric Clapton, not to mention his own father), Dhani is now striking out on his own under his own moniker. His first solo album, In///Parallel, was released in October to critical acclaim, and he is now out on the road touring it.
His previous effort with Fistful of Mercy featured exemplary singer-songwriter melodies lifted by the soaring three-part harmonies of Dhani, Ben Harper, and Joseph Arthur. This time out, however, the music is decibel heavy “cinematic soundscapes,” and although his voice is reminiscent of his famous father, that’s where the similarities end. This new music is brash and loud, the lyrics marked by introspection and searching.
Opening with “Summertime Police,” Dhani served notice that his is no Beatles tribute band. Eerie and unsettling heavy electronica, this and the songs that followed were nonetheless surprisingly accessible with hooks, intense musical build-ups, and standard verse-chorus arrangements.
The set focused on the new album with cuts like the dystopian “War on False,” a duet with Mereki “Poseidon,” and concluding with the single “All About Waiting.” The final encore, The Stooges’ “I Wanna be Your Dog” performed with opener Summer Moon, was the night’s only, and entirely appropriate, nod to Dhani’s predecessors.
Dhani’s been on a musical journey for a long time (he’s 39). His apprenticeship with George’s contemporaries, his 10-year collaboration with the musical collective thenewno2, and his work scoring feature films has resulted in a new and vital voice emerging onto the contemporary rock scene. For us enthusiasts of new music, sometimes it is all about the waiting.
Here are some pictures of Dhani Harrison performing at U Street Music Hall on Nov. 7, 2017. All photos copyright and courtesy of Mark Caicedo.