Friday, January 8, 2016 in Kafe Antzokia, Bilbao
Nothing could fail. All pointed in one direction given the tribute, the cause and the enormous impact that was causing a meeting of undoubted category, which like the original, had solidarity as its reason to be. The heart. Surely, the Banco de Alimentos de Bizkaia received good financial aid to continue a commendable job, and we may go back 44 years to understand a bit better why these meetings. Perhaps human beings have not learned from their mistakes, or the error maybe an endemic evil of society, who knows…? We’d better focus on guitars, let’s not turn this into a political-economic-social analysis.
When Ravi Shankar remembered his friend George Harrison to alleviate the hardship that suffered his compatriots, probably they had never imagined they were writing not only part of the musical history, but social as well, and they got to gather 40.000 souls in two days around Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and others (Lennon and McCartney declined the invitation, one because he considered too hasty a gathering of the Fab Four and the other one for not having the deference to Yoko Ono) at Madison Square Garden, turning the event into a kind of Holy Grail for that generation, the mirror where others coming would fix his gaze. New decade, new approaches, new horizons, same destiny. Harrison and Dylan’s songs mark the script, pursue the goal and perform with great success the first big charitable concert in history.
The night promised and heaven joined, sobbing with joy. We cannot hide that date caused us some respect and anxiety for all that was involved, because of the created expectation, because of the necessary collaboration with the Banco de Alimentos de Bizkaia and because in exchange for our contribution a considerable group of musicians would give us the Concert for Bangladesh. No one could miss it. They had to fill. They filled. They succeeded and the faces of participants and assistants reflected satisfaction, joy, gratitude, emotion. Me myself strove to describe the feelings that transmit a rock & roll performance. When I confront the blank paper I sometimes go blank. Today is one of those days. On the basis that words (my words) will never be on a level, I admit that it took me too long to take in the magnitude and elegance of a wonderful meeting between the past and the present, thinking over the treatment , the drafting, the sense. How do we approach it? I sense that some assistants could understand so much doubt. It’s more than rock & roll, perhaps more transcendental even we could come to categorize it as mystical, and maybe it would be more reasonable to detail what happened without pretence. ‘We cannot play anymore, we know it’s a short concert’ (Jokin dixit), but intense enough, I personally add.
The die was cast, and only remained to check whether the long hours of rehearsal they had endured the past few months bore fruit. Very good musicians, some good friends since adolescense, are or have been part of different projects and the pleasant feeling of experiences already lived (Mike Farris) accumulated in my mind when we walked into an enclosure that from the first minutes showed a great image. As expected it was sold out and the front rows were becoming as crowded as a stage dressed for the occasion. A spotlight illuminates a microphone stand that Jokin Salaverria (the ideologist of this great event) approaches, and after thanking our presence and support, Ravi Shanka’s figure is remembered by Gorka Huarte’s sitar and Ander Cisneros’s tables, that they should have had more attention from an unenthusiastic audience when it comes to value the effort and spirit of the moment. However, it was an island in the middle of a fierce and subtle ocean, powerful, calm, deep, with occasional tsunamis, as the opening “Wah Wah” played by Dani Merino later repeated closing an evening that sounded solid and devoid of couplings, so mention and recognition for the sound team that had to solve real algebra problems with the 26!!! musicians who participated. Alfredo Niharra was responsible for continuing the melodious and choral “My Sweet Lord”, followed with Harrison and the magnetism of “Awaiting On You All”, gradually increasing the temperature of the room.
Nobody leaves their place. We all watch in amazement an extraordinary exercise of respect, a sign of gratitude to the international firmament stars performed by so many of the local scene rarely valued, and often cornered. A scene that at least on our part will continue to have the support it deserves, because if something characterizes Bilbao and Bizkaia in recent years is the quality of the bands, the number of proposals. Tambourine in hand Sara Iñiguez intones “That’s The Way God Planned It” Inés Goñi added joins in a majestic voice duel, when you manage to associate in the vastness of the metaphysical universe with several stars, with angels, with fundamental beings, the same as Saúl Santolaria recalls in “It Don’t Come Easy” almost heavenly, when a furtive cry of ‘Aupa Ringo!’ is heard and then we remember the drummers of the session: Lázaro Anasagasti and Natxo Beltrán. A special occasion requires an analysis of similar characteristics, and as we regularly talk about bands, today we do on a group. We go to concerts, and this time we head for a ceremony. If the original was Harrison’s first public appearance after the dissolution of the Beatles, we probably witnessed the debut as a lead vocalist of Jokin Salaverria in “Beware Of Darkness”, one of the surprises of the day, one of the singular moments. And this exhaustive review of what happened leads to an incendiary “Jumpin ‘Jack Flash” together with “Young Blood” by a jumping, defiant, fearless and energetic Miguel Moral. We just move feet and arms. The enthusiasm is complete, and we enter the intimacy of the acoustic with a motivating “Here Comes The Sun” superbly played by John Franks, Alvaro Segovia and Josu Aguinaga, when the singing and joy from the audience is guessed. Emotion. Devotion. Shock. We approach Mr. Zimmerman’s poetry and “Blowin’ In The Wind” with the contribution of Jokin and a Bilbao native born in Philadelphia, ‘My brother from another mother’, as he was introduced: in harmonica Jonny Kaplan, an extraordinary guy that again demonstrated his friendly nature and commitment. In fact all performed at a spectacular level, but keep in mind that Mr. Kaplan came from the other side of the globe and almost had to beg to participate (this said by him), it was a moral obligation. Grateful for all this may be The Fakeband, who for a few minutes became the backing band of the gentleman in “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry”, a breathtaking “A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall” and “Just Like A Woman”, another of those compositions that have the power to steal a piece of your heart.
A tyrant clock reminded us that this was coming to an end, and the permanent exhibitions of enjoyment inevitably would conclude sooner than later, but there was still something sweet for the taste. If anything I was clear before the concert, it was on who would fall “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” an empirical example of an epic composition, a heartbreaking melody that combines joy and tears, tantric moments and some other earthly ones. It could be no other, it had to be Gonzalo Portugal. A guy that perfectly defends the vocal cords, but if we talk about the six of the guitar… Wow! Extraordinary, huge, vibrant, giant. Abysmal. It was necessary to maintain a harmony between all collaborators resulting obvious, as Jokin said, that the order of the songs was not already known, and the stakes of one and then another are driven by the invaluable depth of Alex Blasco’s hammond, Diego LasHeras’s piano and a radiant brass section formed by Juan Feijóo (tenor sax), Willy “Kalambres” García (alto sax), Fernan Gerrikagoitia (trombone) and Gorka Carralero (trumpet), and the majestic feedback of “Something” prevails in Antzokia. At the microphone, another spectacular guy, and there they go… Iñigo López leaves the set of chorus who had occupied until so far and that at times it seemed a great avenue, proving once again that everyone brought talent and effort to a project that must be lived, a project that ended up with the vocal warmth of Iñigo and “Bangladesh”, how could it be otherwise. Sensational, wonderful, a night where tears mixed with sweat, and a continuous shiver down the spine, a day that disappeared from our eyes but will remain in our minds for a long time. From this moment many things can happen, but we can proudly say we were there, that we revisited an “All Things Must Pass” that tasted like heaven and we returned to merge into “Wah Wah” in total harmony. Ecstasy, the end. Nothing could fail.