Yoko Ono and friends cheer John’s big 7-0

Los Angeles Times - - At the Movies - Kather­ine Tulich

Af­ter a well-re­ceived re­turn to the stage in New York this year, Yoko Ono is bring­ing her “We Are Plas­tic Ono Band” to L.A. for the first time. “I have never done a show in L.A., so I am very happy to be fi­nally do­ing it,” Ono says, speak­ing from her apart­ment at the Dakota in New York.

A trib­ute show to both Ono and the late John Len­non, who would have turned 70 on Oct. 9, the re­vived Plas­tic Ono Band in­cludes mu­sic di­rec­tor Sean Len­non and in­no­va­tive Ja­panese artists Yuka Honda and Cor­nelius, as well as a float­ing ros­ter of guest artists.

“This new ver­sion def­i­nitely gives an East­ern twist to the Ono band,” says Len­non amid re­hearsals ear­lier in the week. “Many peo­ple are re­dis­cov­er­ing my mother’s mu­sic, and I think this is an ideal time to do a trib­ute show.”

While the New York shows fea­tured orig­i­nal Plas­tic Ono Band mem­bers such as Eric Clap­ton and per­form­ers such as Bette Mi­dler and Paul Simon, the L.A. shows fea­ture an edgier lineup, in­clud­ing Perry Far­rell, RZA, Car­rie Fisher, Vin­cent Gallo, Joseph Gor­donLe­vitt, Harper Simon (son of Paul Simon) and Haruomi Hosono (founder of Ja­panese band Yel­low Magic Or­ches­tra). Iggy Pop, bassist Mike Watt and Nels Cline will guest on Fri­day night, while Lady Gaga is joined by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gor­don and Thurston Moore on Satur­day.

“A hip-hop artist like RZA may seem like an odd choice,” says Len­non, “but one of the first songs he sam­pled was a very early record­ing of my mother’s, while Lady Gaga is also a great fan of my mother’s mu­sic.”

The show is a mix of songs from Ono’s 2009 al­bum, “Be­tween My Head and the Sky,” and guest cov­ers of her more fa­mil­iar songs. The fi­nale is a rol­lick­ing com­mu­nal sin­ga­long of “Give Peace a Chance.”

The idea to re­vive the band came from Sean Len­non. “He is the son of the two peo­ple in the band, and for him there’s a per­sonal sen­ti­ment,” Ono says softly.

Ono is rel­ish­ing the chance to work closely with her son. Com­par­ing his style to his fa­ther’s, she notes, “[Sean] is much more finicky. He wants to get ev­ery­thing ex­actly right.”

“I can be metic­u­lous,” Len­non says with a laugh. “My fa­ther came from a dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion. He would say,” break­ing into the note­per­fect Liver­pudlian ac­cent of his fa­ther, “ ‘It’s good enough for rock and roll.’ ”

While Ono’s dis­cor­dant howls and wails be­wil­dered fans when the Bea­tles’ John Len­non as­sem­bled the orig­i­nal Plas­tic Ono Band in 1969, Ono’s con­tri­bu­tion to the avant-garde and to pop mu­sic is now revered. “I wasn’t re­ally try­ing to make peo­ple un­der­stand it then,” says Ono. “I sup­pose I was be­ing an elit­ist about it, but now that peo­ple are ap­pre­ci­at­ing it, it makes me very happy.”

The down­town con­certs will kick off a bumper week of re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties com-

mem­o­rat­ing John Len­non’s birth­day.

On Sun­day evening, Ono ap­pears in the Grammy Mu­seum’s on­go­ing se­ries, “An Evening With.” The mu­seum will also un­veil its new ex­hibit, “John Len­non, Song­writer,” which will open to the pub­lic on Mon­day. The ex­hibit was co-cu­rated by Ono and in­cludes many per­sonal ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing hand-writ­ten song lyrics, orig­i­nal draw­ings, gui­tars, a Sgt. Pep­per out­fit and rare his­toric footage.

“We wanted to present John in a more fo­cused way than what a nor­mal ret­ro­spec­tive would be,” says Robert San­telli, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Grammy Mu­seum. “This cel­e­brates his ge­nius as one of the great­est song­writ­ers of the 20th cen­tury.”

On Mon­day night, the mu­seum is host­ing a mem­bers-only West Coast pre­miere of the doc­u­men­tary film “Amer­i­can Masters: Len­nonNYC,” with Ono in at­ten­dance. The film will be broad­cast on PBS on Nov. 22. Sam Tay­lor-Wood’s crit­i­cally ac­claimed fea­ture film on Len­non’s trou­bled child­hood, “Nowhere Boy,” also pre­mieres at the Egyp­tian on Thurs­day, fol­lowed by a con­cert by the three sur­viv­ing mem­bers of John Len­non’s first band, the Quar­ry­men.

The Egyp­tian will be host­ing a se­ries of rare Len­non and Bea­tles films all week­end.

On Tues­day, Capi­tol/ EMI will re-re­lease eight of Len­non’s al­bums, in­clud­ing a newly stripped-down ver­sion of 1980’s “Dou­ble Fan­tasy” over­seen by Ono (see Sun­day’s Times for a run­down on the new discs).

“I have been get­ting hun­dreds of re­quests from all over the world from peo­ple plan­ning cel­e­bra­tions of John,” says Ono.

“It re­ally feels like a land­mark year in so many ways.”


© Ivor Sharp EMI Mu­sic

Yoko Ono and John Len­non as they ap­peared dur­ing a “bed-in for peace” in 1969. Len­non, who was killed in 1980, would have turned 70 on Oct. 9.

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