Noise Pop: Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band @ The Fox Theater 2/23/2010
To be honest I had no idea what to expect from last night’s show at the Fox. I haven’t followed Yoko Ono’s career and, like most people I imagine, I really only know her as John Lennon’s weird wife. I realize now that this is a great tragedy. Yoko Ono is an amazing artist. Maybe it was nostalgia or maybe it was the excitement of the opening night of Noise Pop or maybe it was the fact that the woman is 77 years old and refuses to slow down, but I was blown away by Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band.
Let me talk about the bad first. Full seating all the way to the stage, really? Maybe they thought everyone there would be 77 years old and would want to sit the whole time. The Plastic Ono Band is one that is best enjoyed on ones feet, dancing, swaying and screeching along with the band. Periodically people would burst out of their seats, unable to suppress their rhythmic urges, but if you’re the only one standing it can get awkward. That’s it for my complaining.
Despite the wall to wall seating, the Fox was the perfect venue for the show, both aesthetically and metaphorically. The Fox was recently rebuild into a beautiful modern theater with all the old classic charm just as Plastic Ono got a modern makeover but with all the classic avant 60′s charm present when the band was originally formed (or so Wikipedia tells me since I wasn’t around). The show kicked off with a 10 or so minute refresher course on why Yoko Ono is awesome, a documentary style film presentation beginning with childhood pictures of Ono and highlighting her diverse body of art and music through the decades and ending with footage of a young Sean Lennon with his parents and some of Ono’s later projects.
The band came on stage to a raucous standing ovation which filled the venue with an enthusiasm that lasted through the bands second encore. The band played a set of well structured, melodic rock songs, which were an interesting contrast to Ono’s brand of disjointed chants, shrieks and occasional singing. It was modern indie rock mashed up with 60′s avant beatnik poetry. It was a combination that I could definitely get used to, an added spice to traditional indie rock and a fresh take on, well, Yoko Ono because let’s be honest, nothing compares. It was the kind of sound that you either love or hate which has been the story of Ono’s career. But either way there’s no denying that she puts herself out there and creates art with a great deal of emotion and strength.
An added bonus to the show was the strong family dynamic between Ono and Lennon. Lennon was heavily focused on the quality of the show, continually counting beats and conversing with band mates between each song ensuring that his mom fully enjoyed her time on stage, which she definitely did. At one point while Ono was explaining how the upcoming song is traditionally 12 minutes, but they would cut back for the Fox crowd, Lennon interrupted saying “Mom this is your show, you can play a 20 minute song if you want.” Lennon and Ono performed a duet with Lennon on piano toward the end of the show. The night came to a close with openers Deerhoof joining Ono and crew on stage for a powerful rendition of “Give Peace a Chance,” with the whole crowd signing along.