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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 

CONCERT REVIEW
by Nick Morgan

SEAN ONO LENNON
Bush Hall, London
4th March 2007

I can’t imagine it’s easy living permanently in the shadow of your father. Nor can it be much fun being regularly upstaged by your mother. But if you’re the son of the most famous Beatle and the woman that Britain (still) most loves to hate (or is that the estranged wife of Sir Macca, Heather Mills McCartney?) then there’s simply no point running for cover – there isn’t any.

Sean Lennon
Sean Ono Lennon has just released his second album Friendly Fire (prompted by the break-up of his four-year relationship with Bijou Phillips – daughter, if you didn’t know, of the Mamas and Papas’ John Phillips), a pleasant enough piece of work, ‘though by no means as remarkable as some of the music press reviews would suggest. However its reception was mainly muted, and the fact that he’s in the middle of a punishing tour of the world – deliberately choosing small lesser-known clubs and halls rather than headlining venues has largely passed the press by. His mother however has just been lionised for her new album Yes I’m a Witch – a highly acclaimed (“a compelling argument for righting a historical wrong” said the Guardian, reflecting on some of the more harsh judgements of her musical talent) collection of remixes and cover versions of her earlier works. A second album, Open Your Box, a collection of dance remixes, is due out next month and no doubt will take up a similarly large amount of press space. But Sean seems a nice enough sort of guy and he doesn’t appear to let any of it get on top of him.
In fact if anything he’s just too nice. Long haired, bearded, thick set (actually he’s rather plump) with heavy round spectacles, he’s nicely turned out in jacket and tie (as are the rest of his band). It’s all a bit foppish, and he looks something like a seventies throwback. He “loves us all”, tells us ‘we’re all beautiful’ and is “very thrilled to be in London” – “yeah, my dad was English … and he was a musician too” -it’s in danger of being a bit too dippy-hippy. All of this in a rather fey and possibly irritating Californianese infused accent (which is strange when he sings with a slightly nasal tone as if he sort of comes from somewhere in the North of England). But he’s fighting back against niceness – “Hey, like some magazine said I was like in a poll of the most disappointing rock and roll children – well I say …” (pause for dramatic effect) “… suck my dick!”. He stares at the crowd defiantly a bit like a five year old who’s said ‘poo’ in front of his granny. And of course what he doesn’t tell us that he came tenth in a poll that was topped by his sometimes estranged half-brother Julian. Later we get an unnecessarily expletive infused account of his attempts to book the Bush Hall “Like I said I’m it’s fucking Sean man and they said, well you can’t fucking play here, and I said well fucking fuck you …” But the best rock and roll moment of the night was when he walked onto the cramped stage for the encore holding a lit cigarette. “It’s no smoking Sean” called out one of the devotees at the front. Within seconds it’s guiltily stubbed out on the floor. Rock on!
Sean Yuka
Yuka and Sean (any resemblence is purely coincidential...)
The evening begins with the complex and intense Italian band Joujoux D’antan; “I just love these guys and their music” said Lennon as he joined them with keyboard player Yuka Honda at the end of their set. The pretty Bush Hall is Sunday evening half-empty and I keep on expecting it to fill up, but it never really does even though the gig is posted as ‘sold out’. Maybe it’s fire regulations, but there’s no crowd of disappointed ticket seekers and touts outside. Yuka Honda, by the way, was a fellow member with Lennon of Cibo Matto, and (along with Beach Boy bonkers Brian Wilson) the inspiration for his first album Into the Sun, which she also produced. She was his ‘long-time live-in girlfriend’, is (as her name would suggest) Japanese, and though of indeterminate age is probably almost old enough to be his mother.
No comment. She holds together a very tight band (sadly mostly anonymous) – but they’re all clearly there to support Lennon – they’re all watching his every move, accommodating his whims and fancies.
The songs are all from Friendly Fire with the exception of a new composition ‘Smoke and mirrors’. I could be wrong but it seemed that even the most devoted fan winced at the start of this such was its similarity to ‘Because’ (or was it ‘I want you’?) from the Beatles Abbey Road. Anyway, we also had ‘Mystery juice’ from his 1998 solo debut Into the Sun (“the first decent song I wrote”) as the second encore. I’m afraid that it goes without saying that most of the songs have a late-sixties Beatles feel about them – not that there’s anything wrong with that – some bands have made a living out of it. It’s not helped that Lennon is most like his father when he addresses the microphone to sing – the resemblance at that point is uncanny. As I said – all nice enough tunes, but all pretty one paced, even if they are rocked up for the evening. Lennon plays acoustic guitar to start and then takes up a Stratocaster for ‘Falling out of love’. The sound was already being pumped up during the previous (and nice) ‘Friendly fire’, but it got far too loud towards the end. ‘Would I be the one’, a Marc Bolan song, which finishes the main set is long and noisy with an over-long, unpersuasive and totally self-indulgent guitar solo from Lennon to finish. Even his guitarist look rather pained.
There was an odd mixture in the crowd. Some loquacious Scotsmen who were veterans of his Glasgow gig in November were lovingly loud and amusing (“No Sean, I’ll suck your dick”) – earnest young Japanese took digital photographs and videos, a few adoring girls stood at the front adoring. But, like the guitar solo, like the rock-and roll posing, and like the album and its hugely expensive DVD bonus disc (full of frankly juvenile and over-produced video accompaniments to each of the songs) the evening was at best unpersuasive. But all I can suggest is that you buy his album and make your own mind up. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate) Sean Lennon



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