PARADISE IN HELL
Bowery Ballroom, New York City
September 15, 2013
By Madeline Bocaro ©
In celebration of her new album, Take Me To The Land of Hell, Yoko Ono performed a special concert in New York City.
The sound of chirping birds filled the room. Single pages from Yoko’s instructional art book Grapefruit appeared one by one on-screen, with an audio track of John and Yoko alternately reading the instructional poems with Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ playing in the background. My favorite; TUNAFISH SANDWICH PIECE – Imagine one thousand suns in the sky at the same time / Let them shine for one hour / Then, let them gradually melt into the sky / Make one tunafish sandwich and eat /1964 Spring. We can tell from John’s voice that he obviously sees the humor in this, but knows that after all, the tunafish sandwich is crucial to the completion of the piece!
Clips of Yoko’s films and art events of the 1960s and 70s were screened with various tracks from her Fly album (1971) playing in the background; Film No. 4, Bottoms, Freedom, Fly, Cut Piece, Wrap Piece in Trafalgar Square, Bandage Piece… followed by a hilariously entertaining, rare trailer for Film No. 4 (Bottoms)! Then a new silent black and white film shot by Karl Lagerfeld called The Secret of My Long Life appeared. With its retro quality and narrow vertical aspect ratio, it was reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin film. It features only Yoko in a black suit and hat (actually resembling Chaplin) dancing. Simply dancing. The film had a stop-motion aspect as well. It was delightful, uplifting and a bit surreal. Everyone watched in silence.
Then came the bird-calls to start ‘Moonbeams’. The Queen of Noise appeared small, yet prevailing in a gray fedora hat, jeans and black leather motorcycle vest in the midst of her own cosmic club. The planets and the universe were heavily featured subjects, of course. There is absolutely no indication that Yoko is eighty years old.
This is one rare occasion that I wish that an artist would play every song from their incredible new album. But other than ‘Moonbeams’, followed by the heavy rock jam ‘Cheshire Cat Cry’ only a third new song was performed – the gentle ‘There’s No Goodbye Between Us’.
The 7-piece Plastic Ono Band consisted of Yuka Honda (Cibo Matto) on synths, Nels Cline (Wilco) on guitar, a trumpet, keyboards and powerhouse drummer Yuko Araki. Sean Lennon switched between guitar and bass. All of this could not drown out Yoko’s vocals. Yoko grooved to and marveled at each musician’s virtuosity during their solos, commenting, ‘beautiful!’ and other superlatives. She joked and told anecdotes about the long length of her free-form songs, about her life and her age. Hard screaming rockers such as ‘Waiting for the D-Train’ alternated with quieter poetic ruminations (‘Rising’, ‘Will I’) – a perfectly balanced set. The audience was charmed and captivated by her sincerity. Any evening with Yoko is a special one.
The POB were joined by guitarist Earl Slick for two encores; ‘It’s Been Very Hard’ (a blues jam only released on Onobox) and ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko…’ (1971). Yoko related the story of trying to find her kidnapped daughter, “I know, I’ll write a song for her and it will be played on the radio, and she will hear it…well, probably my song wasn’t very good.” Sean prefaced it by saying, ‘The original guitars were by Eric Clapton and my dad, which is pretty dope.’
Yoko thanked us all for creating a ‘light garden’ with the Onochord flashlights given to us upon entry, as we all flashed ‘I – love – you’ along with her, lighting up the venue.
Moonbeams / Cheshire Cat Cry / Rising / Waiting For the D Train / Between My Head & the Sky / Will I / Moving Mountains / There’s No Goodbye Between Us / Walking On Thin Ice / Mindtrain
It’s Been Very Hard / Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow)
Coming soon – my new Yoko Ono biography: