Suddenly the audience started to sing Happy Birthday to me right in the middle of the sing along GIVE PEACE A CHANCE! That was such a nice surprise. I was so unprepared for it, I don’t even remember if I had thanked the audience or not. Did I? There was so much love circulating, it didn’t seem necessary to say anything… We were family.

The curtain went down after GIVE PEACE A CHANCE. Sean and I looked at each other. Sean’s eyes were twinkling. “You were great.” said Sean. “So were you.” It was a grand moment. We knew we had been witnesses to something that was bigger than both of us.

It did not start all that great that day. I kept looking up at the sky, wondering when it will stop snowing. I love snow. But I was also concerned if any car could go near the theatre if it kept snowing.

But the feather snow kept dancing a delicate dance, giving a nostalgic and romantic look to the city and not becoming a sticky mess. Still, I couldn’t help looking up the sky. If it was around the corner from my apartment like Beacon… but the show was at BAM. Brooklyn!

Weeks before the show, I was going to give the performance of my life at BAM. Was I crazy?! Actually, I wasn’t. The show went over so well, it surpassed our wildest expectation.

Thank you for adding your magic to it. We are a lucky mother-and-son. yoko

Yoko Ono
18 October 2010

Amid All That Experience, Innocence

by Jon Pareles, New York Times

In some ways Yoko Ono is still an amateur. At “We Are Plastic Ono Band,” mixing concert and tribute at the Brooklyn Academy of Musicon Tuesday night, her voice could be shaky and her stage patter giggly and unplanned. She looked genuinely surprised when the audience interrupted her and sang “Happy Birthday.” (She turns 77 on Feb. 18.) She’s also untamed. She can still let loose the bleats, wails, yips, howls and shrieks that alienated Beatles fans in the 1960s and inspired avant-rockers soon afterward.

Ms. Ono’s well-preserved air of naïveté — and the license it gives her to say things simply and primally — has been her artistic gift since the ’60s, first as a conceptual artist and then, with John Lennon’s impetus, as a rocker and songwriter. She reveals things with purposeful guilelessness: physically in her ’60s performance art and films, and emotionally in songs like “It Happened,” which she sang unaccompanied to start the concert: “I know there’s no return.” Now her main collaborator is her son, Sean Ono Lennon, who organized the show and led the band.

“We Are Plastic Ono Band” brought together, for the first time in decades, members of the informal group John Lennon assembled in 1969: Eric Clapton on guitar, Jim Keltner on drums and Klaus Voorman on bass. Guests, including Paul Simon, Bette Midler and members of Sonic Youth, also performed songs by Ms. Ono and by John Lennon.

But Ms. Ono was never overshadowed. For the first half of the concert she performed songs from her 2009 album, “Between My Head and the Sky” (Chimera) and some older ones, like “Walking on Thin Ice.” The band vamped through hard rock, funk and psychedelic drone, closely following her voice. Singing melodies, Ms. Ono sounded high and fragile, as deliberately exposed as the lyrics. And her wordless sounds were by no means random. They were ghostly, furious, dreamy, caustic, urgent, exultant, orgasmic. Between the abstractions were tidings of peace-and-love optimism, of loss and loneliness, and of uncertainty. She ended her set with “Higa Noboru,” a ballad set to impressionistic piano chords: “I hear the fish calling from the ocean/I hear the birds warning from the sky,” she recited.

Guest singers claimed Ms. Ono’s songs for their own genres. Ana Matronic and Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters rode a disco beat in “The Sun Is Down,” dancing across the stage in glittery shoes. The cabaret singer Justin Bond, in high heels, reveled in the drama of the bitterly ambivalent breakup song “What a Bastard the World Is.” Mr. Simon and Harper Simon, his son, fingerpicked acoustic guitars in the fond “Silverhorse” and John Lennon’s “Hold On.” Ms. Midler gave Ms. Ono’s whimsical birthday song, “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” a winking New Orleans insouciance, lingering over the tra-la-las. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, the married couple in Sonic Youth, joined Ms. Ono to perform the arrhythmic noise of “Mulberry,” making guitars clank and screech to mirror her voice.

The reunited Plastic Ono Band was still proudly unrehearsed, crunchy and sinewy. Mr. Clapton sent slow-blues phrases curling around Ms. Ono’s voice in the elegiac “Death of Samantha,” and the band turned the blues-rock stomp of “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)” into a full-fledged maelstrom. Naturally Ms. Ono ended the concert with “Give Peace a Chance,” the 1969 song that introduced the Plastic Ono Band, adding updated lyrics, flashing V signs and leading a singalong.

Sean Ono Lennon said onstage that he had tried to get Mr. Clapton to show him the slide-guitar part for “Don’t Worry Kyoko.” But in 1969, he was told, the Plastic Ono Band and Mr. Clapton were “having so much fun that he has no idea what they were doing.” Ms. Ono spoke up. “I knew what I was doing,” she said — not so naïve after all.

NY Times slideshow here.

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Sean Lennon, Bette Midler, Scissor Sisters, Yoko Ono, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore backstage at the special Plastic Ono Band concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 16, 2010 in Brooklyn, New York

Yoko Revives Plastic Ono Band
with Clapton as Guest

Yoko Ono revived the Plastic Ono Band for a concert on Tuesday night that was part tribute, part vanity project and all irresistible fun.

Sean Lennon

The show belonged as much to her son Sean Lennon, 34, as to Ono, 76. Looking and sounding like his famous father, Sean Lennon pulled together an all-star lineup that included Eric Clapton, Paul Simon and Bette Midler as special guests.

Plastic Ono Band was the name of the conceptual supergroup that recorded John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” in 1969 and one Ono had not used artistically since the 1970s.

The succession of stars led to the inevitable sing-along of that anthem for the encore at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Clapton played with fellow rockers Klaus Voormann and Jim Keltner — all members of the original Plastic Ono Band.

Ono held the stage for the first act, building up from an a cappella opening number to a standard rock lineup to a 7-piece backing band that found its stride with funk-inspired rhythms.

Justin Bond

The second act, though disjointed at times and largely unrehearsed, gave the adoring audience what it wanted: guest artists including Scissor Sisters, Justin Bond, and Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, all playing Ono songs.

Bette Midler

Midler sang “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” a light-hearted number Ono said she wrote for Lennon when he was growing anxious about turning 40. Lennon was shot dead by a deranged fan outside his New York City apartment two months after turning 40 in 1980.

Other artists dipped into Lennon’s repertoire. Gene Ween’s version of Lennon’s love song “Oh Yoko” was touching, with Sean Lennon playing along.

Harper Simon & Paul Simon

Simon and his son Harper Simon — a childhood friend of Sean Lennon’s — played in guitar duet, providing an acoustic warm-up to Clapton’s blazing lead guitar on “Yer Blues” from the Beatles’ White Album, on which Clapton played as a session guitarist.

Eric Clapton & Yoko Ono

Clapton, Voormann and Keltner energized the hall without speaking a word, setting up the emotional farewell sing-along of “Give Peace a Chance,” which many audience members were still humming as they made their way to the exit.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta, editing by Anthony Boadle.

New York Times slideshow here.

Photos courtesy of Kevin Mazur/Wire Image.

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More of Kevin’s pictures here, here, here and here.

Photos by Allan Tannenbaum

© Allan Tannenbaum 2010 . Used with permission. More at

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Concert at BAM 2010

Yoko Ono Takes Brooklyn
With Friends From Bette Midler to Gene Ween

by Cooper Marshall, New York Magazine

“There’s a long life ahead of you and it’s going to be beautiful, as long as you keep loving and hugging each other,” Yoko Ono told a sold-out crowd at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House last night. “It’s really good for your health, you know.” Given the fact that she’s still making relevant, boundary-pushing music at the age of 76, it would be wise to listen when she gives health advice. We Are Plastic Ono Band, last night’s event hosted by Yoko and her son, Sean, was all about togetherness.

The first half of the performance showcased an incredibly tight backing band led by Sean with the Japanese musicians Keigo Oyamada, better known as Cornelius, and Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto. The band tore through eight of Yoko’s solo songs with a unique blend of funk, synths, and world influences. Yoko danced, screamed, howled, recited spoken word, and occasionally even sang.

The second part of the show featured an oddly eclectic VIP list that revealed Yoko’s wide array of musical styles and tastes.

Paul Simon and his son Harper performed two songs together, including a touching version of John Lennon’s “Hold On.”

Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon joined Yoko for a screeching, feedback-heavy version of her song “Mulberry.”

Bette Midler sent the crowd swooning with a jazzy rendition of “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” a song Yoko wrote for John as he was approaching his 40th birthday.

Eric Clapton joined the band for the show’s three-song finale, including the Beatles classic “Yer Blues.”

Other guests included the Scissor Sisters, Justin Bond, Mark Ronson, and Gene Ween, who performed a beautiful rendition of Lennon’s classic ode to Ono “Oh Yoko” alongside Sean.

The night was not just a celebration of Yoko’s career, but of her spirit, creativity, and resilience. And of course, John was not far from anybody’s thoughts, especially during the encore, when all of the artists retook the stage to perform the classic Ono-Lennon duet “Give Peace a Chance.”

Time Out New York

Plastic Ono Band welcomes a boldfaced legion at BAM

by Jay Ruttenberg, Time Out New York

There is an instance during most successful performances, small or large, when it becomes evident that the people onstage have fallen in sync with those in the audience. At We Are Plastic Ono Band, the Yoko Ono extravaganza presented last night at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House, the moment was more conspicuous than usual: Late in the night, after Ono mentioned that she will turn 77 on Thursday, her audience began singing that atonal avant-garde classic: “Happy Birthday to You.” It began in a murmur from the cheap seats, then spread like a ballpark’s wave until Ono could only step back from the microphone and blush. Participation has been the central element of Ono’s art for decades—but she is, after all, Japanese, and this was simply too much. Suddenly, one of New York’s most resilient black-clad artists was reduced to a bashful granny being ambushed at a restaurant by singing waiters. The artist’s longtime vision materialized before her completely unprompted: Her audience had enlisted itself in the Plastic Ono Band.

The night was divided into two distinct acts: a set in which Ono fronted the whip-smart 2010 edition of her namesake group, followed by a Yoko tribute concert, with sporadic participation from the artist. The second set transformed the night into a glittery occasion, but Ono’s initial performance most triumphed. As assembled by Sean Lennon, the largely Japanese Plastic Ono Band is contemporary and groovy, comfortable with hard-driving rockers, arty disco and balladry. The revelation is Ono herself: She performs infrequently and, until this week, had resisted big-tent New York appearances. “I was scared, I suppose,” Ono said when I asked her about her stage absence in an interview for last week’s magazine. Yet she maintains a natural, riveting stage presence. And her trademark yowl remains one of the most distinct in the land: by turns animalistic and orgasmic (even while performing with her son), fleshy yet inhuman.

“I’m famous for not having a good voice,” Ono mentioned during the interview.

“Oh, come on,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah,” she shrugged. “But you know what I mean.”

And of course, I knew what she meant; I just have never understood it. Why did fans of the Beatles, so celebrated for their ingenuity, bristle when confronted by Ono? And does Ono herself appreciate how much the world has finally come around? Witness the concert’s second half. Not by mere coincidence were the guest stars drawn from all parts of the pop spectrum: folk (Paul Simon), dance (Scissor Sisters), dissonant noise (Sonic Youth), bent cabaret and performance art (Justin Bond), Broadway (Bette Midler), mischievous indie rock (Gene Ween) and, yes, classic rock (Eric Clapton).

Discounting Ono herself, it was the night’s wild card, Bette Midler, who walked away with the show, performing “Yes, I’m Your Angel.” Even on Double Fantasy, the song is atypical Ono—lighthearted, overtly poppy and unabashedly pretty. Backed by a band that included tuba and double-bass, Midler got a laugh with her opening—“Hello, boys”—and delivered the number with the light touch of a professional, as if she was performing a comic standard by Cole Porter. (An audience member uploaded her performance to YouTube here.)

For the most part, the guests performed one song apiece. Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore joined Ono, abusing their guitars as she sang “Mulberry.” The vocalists from Scissor Sisters covered “The Sun Is Down,” from last year’s Plastic Ono record Between My Head and the Sky, as if it were a beloved old dance hit. Paul Simon duetted with his son, Harper, who grew up down the hall from Sean Lennon. And Justin Bond, always great, sang “What a Bastard the World Is”—adding a needed dash of irreverence as the show’s sole performer to send up its star. (In short: Bond follows Ono on Twitter and, although he often does not understand her tweets, attempts to do everything she commands. Just imagine a world where O magazine was dedicated to Ono, not Oprah!)

The set closed on a throwback: a near-recreation of the old Plastic Ono Band, here featuring Ono and Sean Lennon joined by drummer Jim Keltner (few have noticed, but Ringo Starr no longer exactly plays drums), John Lennon crony Klaus Voormann, and Eric Clapton—a perfectly dreadful musician long admired by subscribers to Guitar World magazine and fans of Michelob beer commercials.

The concert concluded not with old Slowhand—thank Clapton!—but rather a folkie-style sing-along of what may be the Plastic Ono Band’s most iconic number, “Give Peace a Chance.” The song’s chorus is less famous than “Happy Birthday to You”—if only slightly—but the audience sang along once more, with even greater glee and fervor, this time on its feet. Once again, Ono’s mission came to glorious fruition: We Are Plastic Ono Band, indeed.

Yoko Ono pushes the edge on eve of 77th birthday
with star-studded show at Brooklyn Academy of Music

by Jim Farber, NY Daily News

To the uninformed, she’s one of the great punch lines of the last half century.

But last night, Yoko Ono appeared before a knowing and faithful crowd at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to re-assert herself as a longtime musical pioneer, as well as an artist still pushing the edge.

To help her toast the event, a mighty round of guest stars showed up to play her songs, including both cult stars (Kim Gordan, Gene Ween, and Justin Bond) and brand name icons (Paul Simon, Bette Midler, and Eric Clapton).

The last named star took part in the most historically resonant part of the show. For the final four numbers in this near three hour event, Ono fronted much of the same band that backed her on the historic “Live Peace In Toronto” album from 1969, including Clapton, bassist Klaus Voormann and drummer Jim Keltner (subbing for original stickman Alan White).

Ono’s 32-year-old son, Sean, pitched in for his dad on those numbers, along with serving as musical director for the entire event.

The night began with a series of short films capturing such early Yoko pieces as 1966’s “Play It By Trust” (in which people were invited to cut off parts of her clothing as part of a live instillation) to 1966’s “Bottoms” (which features just that part of the human anatomy).

Lots of film of John and Yoko unspooled during this segment, threatening, for a spell, to turn this into “home movie night at the Lennons.”

Luckily, as soon as Ono appeared live with her backing band, her connection to her insanely famous husband faded and she emerged as a force of her own.

Even in her seventh decade, Ono has lost none of her vocal power or shock-appeal. Her “singing” has always involved its own eccentric, fidgety take on Arabic ululating. The result sounds like a vocal equivalent to an Ornette Coleman free-jazz sax solo – creating something curious, brave, and free.

The music behind Ono often had more conventional roots, mining funk, jazz, and progressive rock.

In her old song “Mind Train,” Michael Leonhart‘s trumpet mined a jazz-funk groove with a very ‘70s feel, while the more recent “Rising” had the loose structure, and escalating crescendos, of classic psychedelic-rock.

In this first “act,” Ono included her one, great pop hit, the new wave disco classic from the early ‘80s, “Walking On Thin Ice,” which has lost none of its thrust.

For the second half, the show moved into tribute mode, with various guests covering Yoko songs, along with two pieces by John.

The singers from the Scissor Sisters rendered a recent Ono piece, “The Sun Is Down,” while performance artist/drag queen Bond delivered an irony-heavy take on Yoko’s feminist anthem from the ‘70s, “What A Bastard The World Is.”

Both pieces suffered from their crude use of language. (In general, Ono proves far more eloquent, and nuanced, when shrieking than when speaking). At least Bond’s gay connection lent Yoko’s piece fresh appeal.

Bette Midler proved the night’s most creative arranger, giving great instrumental humor, and highly theatrical rhythm, to “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” a tongue in cheek piece Yoko penned to John to ease his anxiety over his 40th birthday. (He would be murdered less than two months after that event).

Paul Simon performed delicate harmonies with his son Harper on “Silverhorse” and “Hold On,” John’s beautiful tribute to his wife. Two members of Sonic YouthThurston Moore and Kim Gordon – met Yoko at eye level by offering careening blasts of guitar feedback to accompany her vocal cries and wails. It provided the night’s zenith of abstraction.

Still, the capper had to be the reunion of the Plastic Ono Band. Forty years have passed since the surviving members last played together. Here they offered songs like The Beatles‘ “Yer Blues,” with Clapton taking a great blues solo, and the inevitable “Give Peace A Chance.”

Yoko’s speeches throughout the night underscored her idealized, and numbing, hippie views, elaborated in that tired, old hit. Yet, when she belched, yelped, and whined with her Plastic band on the classic old “Don’t Worry Kyoko,” she proved the range of her art, and re-asserted just how far ahead of the curve she was.

Plastic Ono Band return with Eric Clapton, Paul Simon in Brooklyn

by David Fricke, Rolling Stone

Just before the final song of Yoko Ono’s first performance in four decades with founding members of the Plastic Ono Band, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 16th, her son Sean told a short story: At soundcheck that day, Sean remarked to guitarist Eric Clapton that he had never played slide guitar before and wanted to know how Eric and Sean’s father, John, played slide on the early, chaotic Plastic Ono Band records. Clapton replied that, at the time, he had no idea what he was doing.

Yoko turned to the BAM crowd with a coquettish grin. “I knew what I was doing,” she cracked. Then she leaped into the white-noise boogie of “Don’t Worry, Kyoko” from 1969’s Live Peace in Toronto with rusted shrieks and air-raid-siren whoops as Sean and Clapton played twin grinding slide guitars over a steady thundering rhythm section: original Plastic Ono bassist Klaus Voorman and drummer Jim Keltner, who played on John and Ono’s 1972 album Sometime in New York City.

Check out photos from the Plastic Ono Band show.

Coming two days before her 77th birthday, “We Are Plastic Ono Band” was a two-set revue of Ono’s musical life, with the first half focused on her new album, Between My Head and the Sky. The second part featured friends and disciples performing songs from her previous records, as far apart in temper and touch as “Mulberry” – a wordless memoir of Ono’s World War II childhood in Japan, in raw ecstatic yelps to the free-guitar discord of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon – to Bette Midler’s canny rearrangement of “Yes I’m Your Angel” fromDouble Fantasy into a saucy sister of “Makin’ Whoopee.” You could almost hear the clinking of martini glasses amid the brass and penthouse-party piano.

The connective momentum in Ono’s art is her declarative instruction and participatory assurance, from the early-Sixties action works shown in a biographical film at the start of the night – Cut Piece; the ceiling painting with a microscopic “Yes” at the center – to recent songs in the first set like the victory mantra “Rising” and “Higa Noboru,” a ballad from the current album. “I write/I light/My message/On an invisible wall/Of prison cell hell,” she sang in the latter, in a tender but direct voice to Sean’s firm piano work. And inside the extreme confrontation of records like 1970’s Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band and 1971’s Fly was always a love of surging rhythm. At BAM, her new Plastic Ono Band – led by Sean, now 34, and including drummer Yuko Araki and Yuka Honda on keyboards – updated the railroad racket of Ono’s 1972 single “Mind Train” with percolating dancefloor electronics. Ono shimmeyed to the beat as she wailed.

Performance artist Justin Bond turned “What a Bastard the World Is” from 1973’s Approximately Infinite Universe into a blur of gender: a man dressed like a 1920s ingenue, singing a song of feminist outrage, in a hard deep tenor dotted with girl-ish flutter. Paul Simon and his son Harper, made a short poignant medley of “Silverhorse” from 1981’s Season of Glass, the album Ono made after John Lennon’s death, and his “Hold On,” from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band record. Played like a pair of traditional English folk ballads, with familial harmonies and two acoustic guitars, the songs captured, without melodrama, the weight of Ono’s loss and her faith in unbroken connection.

The three-song set with Sean, Clapton, Voorman and Keltner was hardly as ragged as that ‘69Live Peace show. But it was good rough fun – Voorman was beaming all through “Yer Blues,” the only Beatles song of the night – and Clapton soloed in the Approximately Infinite Universeblues “Death of Samantha” with sharp tortuous cries, like the song was an old Mississippi Delta lament.

The evening ended with Ono and Sean leading a full-cast singalong to “Give Peace a Chance.” But the audience gave its own encore too: a spontaneous rendition, for Ono, of “Happy Birthday.” Her “Yes” piece had come to life.

More pictures at Rolling Stone here.

Yoko Ono Lennon & Sean Lennon

Yoko Ono and All Star Friends Jam In Brooklyn

by David Marchese, Spin

During the career-spanning video montage that opened Tuesday night’s We Are Plastic Ono Band concert celebration of Yoko Ono at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a quote from actress Ann Magnuson flashed on the screen: “There’s a reason the coolest guy in the world fell in love with her.”

And if the evening’s star-studded renditions of Ono’s songs wasn’t likely to win over those who aren’t already down with twisted avant-garde funk, resolutely childlike pop, and the guest of honor’s trademark warbling, wobbling, and shrieking vocalizing, the constant cries of “We Love You, Yoko” coming from audience suggested that those who are went home happy.

The concert was split into two halves. The first featured Ono, wearing sunglasses, a top hat, tight black pants, and a very low-cut black blouse, fronting an eight-piece band led by her son Sean Lennon, who spent the night switching between bass, piano, and guitar.

Mention Ono’s vocals to the casual music fan and you might hear a joke about cats in heat. Such comments, for better or worse, are basically accurate. On newer songs like the lurching “Moving Mountains” and roiling “Between My Head and the Sky,” Ono’s mewling and caterwauling were at their fiercest, as the 76-year-old (she turns 77 on February 18, a fact the crowd acknowledged with a mid-set “Happy Birthday”) wordlessly wailed, ululated, and straight-up screamed while two-stepping and strutting across the stage.

Listened to with any cynicism at all, this stuff sounds like a shrill put-on. This is singing? But if you can accept the sounds for what they are — pure unfettered expressions of emotion — then they start to make sense, conceptually anyway.

Ono’s more straightforward songs bypassed any need for ontological leaps. The bopping, New Wave-wish “Walking On Thin Ice” and plaintive “It Happened,” both originally released in 1981, showed that her back catalogue features its share of pop gems studded amongst the more notorious sonic explorations.

Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore (from Sonic Youth) & Yoko Ono

With a few coruscating exceptions, it was those less difficult pages of Ono’s songbook that were the focus of the second half of the night, as a bizarre mish-mash of friends and fans took turns paying musical tribute. I would have paid to know what Bette Midler, who mugged her way through a cartoonish cabaret jazz version of “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, whose rendition of “Mulberry” saw them accompany some Yokodeling with their own abrasive bass and guitar feedback, had to talk about backstage once they got past “Isn’t Yoko great?”

The guests that kept things simple delivered the most affecting performances. Paul Simon and his singer-songwriter son Harper shone on a sparkling acoustic guitar and voice run-through of the hymnlike “Silverhorse,” which the duo then segued into John Lennon’s “Hold On.”

Ana Matronic & Jake Shears (from Scissor Sisters)

The latter’s “Oh Yoko!” from Imagine was given an endearingly ragged airing by his son and Gene Ween of goof-rockers Ween, both of whom struggled charmingly to hit the song’s high notes, an obstacle that Jake Shears and Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters had no problem avoiding (sometimes to a distressing degree) on Ono’s electro-poppy “The Sun Is Down.”

It was another John song that drew the night’s biggest cheers, as after Simon and Son left the stage (they’d been performing at the lip, in front of the drawn curtain), the curtain was raised to reveal Eric Clapton, in town for two nights at Madison Square Garden with fellow guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck later in the week, as he grinded out the nasty blues riff of the Beatles “Yer Blues” backed by Sean on guitar and longtime Ono associates Klaus Voorman on bass and Jim Keltner on drums.

Eric Clapton

Clapton stuck around too add some smoky sting to a slyly grooving “Death of Samantha,” from Ono’s 1973 album Approximately Infinite Universe, and some raunchy slide to “Don’t Worry Kyoko,” the original version of which he guested on more than forty years ago. This time, though, he cast bemused glances at the Lennon-Onos, who were busy getting their free-form on while he played anchor, repeating the same low-string riff over and over to the song’s conclusion.

We Are Plastic Ono Band

As these things often do, the night concluded with an All Star jam. Sean invited all the performers onto the stage for a “Give Peace A Chance” sing-a-long. Like so much of what came before, this final performance was baggy, self-indulgent, maybe better in theory than practice, and in its sheer and utter lack of irony and sarcasm, something close to irresistible.

Yoko Ono Lennon & Sean Lennon

We Are Plastic Ono Band
(feat Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Sean Lennon & friends)
@ BAM, Brooklyn 2/16/10

by Amrit Singh, Executive Editor, Stereogum

A hefty price tag accompanied tickets to this very special one-off at Brooklyn Academy Of Music last night, a mix of simple supply-demand economics and, presumably, underwriting costs associated with corralling these names under one ornamented roof: The reconstituted, radicalized Plastic Ono Band boasted a lineup of legends and friends of Sean Lennon to survey the audio (and visual) output of Yoko Ono, the septuagenarian battling Leonard Cohen for the title of World’s Most Vital. BAM’s lobby was adorned with various Yoko art installations, and the performance portion of the evening set in with a short film, edited by her son, honoring the many faces and phases of a life considerably less ordinary. It was touching and sweet, evoking nostalgia for a time before many attendees were born, framing the evening as a celebration of an enviable, influential output. There were two acts:

First was Plastic Ono band in its current incarnation, shifting between classics like the Ono-ululating “Why” and the mutant disco of “Walking On Thin Ice” (the demo in Lennon’s held as he passed away), and newer material from 2009’sBetween My Head And The Sky. It stretched, skronked, spazzed, Sean taking each song’s principal instrument (bass for “Thin Ice,” wah-guitar for “Mind Train,” piano for “Higa Noboru”), Yoko delivering anecdotes and throwing her shoulders into that patented stage prance. For the most part this went off without a hitch, despite many caveats that rehearsal time was scarce, save those times Yoko couldn’t see her way around stage. Sunglasses are a good look, not so good for looking.

Where the first set was visceral in its vamps and psychedelic detours, set two was a more cerebral and goosepimply affair. On came the parade of cameos, covering and occasionally collaborating with Yoko, primary performers swapped out after nearly every song with background introduction from Sean. Kim and Thurston scraped guitars and bent guitar necks on the noise piece “Mulberry.” Gene Ween and Sean duetted memorably on the quintessential turn-on “Oh Yoko.” Drag queen Kiki aka Justin Bond (last seen at Doveman’s release party) tapped the humor in “What A Bastard The World Is”; Doveman himself joined the proceedings for Bette Midler’s effortlessly charismatic razzle dazzle cabaret arrangement of “Yes, I’m Your Angel.” Bette was somewhat of a WTF punchline in emails between friends before this show; afterward all I wanted to do was rentBeaches. Either that or go deep into a Clapton excavation session. Eric joined the battery — along with other original Plastic Ono Band member, bassist Klaus Voormann — lacing creamy fretwork all over Yes I’m A Witch‘s “Death Of Samantha,” muscling up “Yer Blues,” stamping “Don’t Worry Kyoko.” Dude knows. As Paul Simon harmonized during his first performance with son Harper as a guitar duet, on “Silverhorse” and “Hold On,” you couldn’t help pause for thought: This was a serious show.

Embodying the night’s collaborative spirt was the encore performance of the original well intentioned megajam “Give Peace A Chance” (take note, other well intentioned megajams), featuring the entire We Are Plastic Band performing cast (save Clapton, the rogue). Earlier in the night Justin Bond said he followed Yoko on Twitter. “Half the time I don’t know what she’s talking about. But I do everything she says. I think it’s what got me here.” He might be on to something — there were worse places to be. And few better.

The night’s programme:

01 “It Happened”
02 “Waiting For The D Train”/”Why” (Feat. Mark Ronson)
03 “Between My Head And The Sky”
04 “Rising”
05 “Walking On Thin Ice”
06 “Moving Mountains”
07 “Calling”
08 “Mind Train”/”Ask The Elephant”
09 “Higa Noboru”

10 “The Sun Is Down” (Performed by Scissor Sisters)
11 “What A Bastard The World Is” (Performed by Justin Bond)
12 “Oh Yoko” (Performed by Gene Ween and Sean Lennon)
13 “Mulberry” (Performed by Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore & Kim Gordon)
14 “Yes, I’m Your Angel” (Performed by Bette Midler)
15 “Silverhorse” (Performed by Paul and Harper Simon)
16 “Hold On” (Performed by Paul and Harper Simon)
17 “Yer Blues” (Performed by Yoko Ono, eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, and Sean Lennon)
18 “Death Of Samantha” (Performed by Yoko Ono, eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, and Sean Lennon)
19 “Don’t Worry Kyoko” (Performed by Yoko Ono, eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, and Sean Lennon)
20 “Give Peace A Chance” (Performed by the Plastic Ono Band sans Eric Clapton)

Yoko Ono Lennon & Sean Lennon

Last Night’s Concert: Yoko Ono and Plastic Ono Band at BAM

by Kelsey Keith, Flavorwire

Yoko Ono is turning 77 tomorrow. Keep that in mind as you imagine the performance artist shimmying, writhing, caterwauling, and charming the pants off the audience at Brooklyn Academy of Music on Tuesday night. The show began with a montage of Ono recordings, films, interview clips, and photos from her days with husband John Lennon, and ended with a cavalcade of special guests that frankly kind of blew us away. Rundown of the entire performance by We Are Plastic Ono Band, plus an image gallery featuring Eric Clapton and the Scissor Sisters, after the jump.

CLICK THROUGH for our slideshow of Yoko Ono performing with Plastic Ono Band at BAM.

The first set was a fast and furious tour through the Yoko Ono discography, including the title track from her latest record release, Between My Head & the Sky, and a rendition of “Rising” with son Sean — the emcee-of-sorts — as accompaniment. And in case you wondering, the lady can still scream.

The second act, less rehearsed but equipped with a magical spontaneity, included guest appearances byScissor Sisters — who performed “The Sun is Down” as a dance-y duet in front of an animated short from the ’60s — and a heartstring-tugging acoustic version of “Oh Yoko” by Gene Ween. Justin Bond, in sequined leggings, took on “What a Bastard the World Is” before things got experimental with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, who thrashed conceptually (think lots of reverb and dissonant bass notes) as Ono wailed “Mulberry.” Bette Midler owned the audience with a whimsical take on “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” which Ono explained that she wrote to cheer up Lennon on the eve of his 40th birthday. After an appearance by Paul Simon and son Harper, a childhood friend of Sean’s from The Dakota and Central Park West, Eric Clapton took the stage for a searing “Yer Blues” (originally on the Beatles’ White Album, on which Clapton played as session guitarist) followed by Ono songs “Death of Samantha” and “Don’t Worry Kyoko.” Two original members of Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band — Klaus Voormann and Jim Keltner — played backup, marking the first time in four decades that the group of musicians had jammed together.

The finale was — as you might have guessed — a group performance of “Give Peace a Chance,” set to a dark auditorium punctuated by flashlight, a reference to the Onochord, a device meant to spell out “I love you” with a series of Morse code flashes.

Sidenote: if you don’t follow Ono’s Twitter feed, we would heartily recommend it.

Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band – Concert Review

by Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

Bottom Line: This memorable and historical concert fully confirmed Yoko Ono’s musical stature.

It has taken about 40 odd years, but Yoko Ono has gone from being a much-derided controversial figure to a musical and cultural institution. That was the message conveyed during “We Are Plastic Ono Band,” the self-generated tribute show that featured an impressive gallery of guest stars as well as the current incarnation of her and John’s famed band. It was a thrilling if occasionally ragged evening that instantly assumed historical importance.

Featuring her son, Sean, as musical director, musician and charmingly self-deprecating host, the evening featured music spanning the decades, from the original Plastic Ono Band to Ono’s solo work to songs from the terrific new album “Between My Head and the Sky.”

The show’s first half featured Yoko, her trademark yowl intact, leading the band through such numbers as the current “Waiting for the D Train” (with support by Mark Ronson) to such iconic songs as “Rising” and “Walking on Thin Ice.” Wearing a black fedora and her signature shades and dancing sinuously throughout, Ono betrayed no signs of her advanced age (she is 77 today!). The band — featuring Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto, the ensemble known as Cornelius and such players as Michael Leonhart (trumpet) and Erik Friedlander (cello) — delivered a terrifically complex mixture of rock, funk and avant-jazz.

The big guns were saved for the second half. The Scissor Sisters delivered a typically rambunctious version of the new “The Sun Is Down,” featuring a good approximation of Yoko’s caterwauling. Gene Ween and Sean sang together on a charming version of John Lennon’s “Oh Yoko.” With Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore providing suitably bracing guitar scrapings, Yoko screeched her way through the avant-garde exercise “Mulberry.” Bette Midler sang the retro-style “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” giving the number the feel of a lost track from the 1930s. And Paul Simon and his son Harper sang low-key acoustic renditions of Yoko’s “Silverhorse” and John Lennon’s “Hold On.”

But the big excitement came with the partial reunion of the original Plastic Ono Band, with Eric Clapton, bassist Klaus Voormann and drummer Jim Keltner joining Yoko onstage for the first time in decades. Performing rousing if ragged versions of the Beatles’ “Yer Blues” and Yoko’s “Death of Samantha” and “Don’t Worry Kyoko,” the players relished the opportunity to relive old times.

The evening ended appropriately with the all-star line-up leading the audience on the classic “Give Peace a Chance,” featuring new lyrics written for the occasion. Still relevant decades after it was written, it was a sad reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Venue: BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Brooklyn, N.Y. on Tuesday, Feb. 16

Pitchfork Media
Photos by Kathryn Yu.
Hosted at Pitchfork.

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon
Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon
Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon
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Paul Simon, Harper Simon
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Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band and Sean Lennon
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band and Sean Lennon
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band and Sean Lennon
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band
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Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band

Welcome to

Oh, Yoko Ono

BAM throws a cheerfully random, surreally star-studded tribute to the Plastic Ono Band
by Rob Harvilla, Village Voice

Yoko Ono still does that Yoko Ono thing. You know the one. The one that requires italics, or caps lock, or maybe both. She crouches slightly, one balled-up fist on her hip, her face narrowed to an insouciant gunfighter’s squint, a face reflecting not exactly joy, not exactly rage, not exactly anguish, not exactly feral abandon, but some bizarre, inimitable fusion thereof. And then she opens her mouth, and hoo, Lord, out it comes: AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. EEEIEEIIIIEEEIIIEE. UHUHHUHUHHUHUHH.

And so forth. That sound, that force, that apocalyptic yodel. The human Auto-Tune antidote. Fifteen seconds is hilarious, 30 somewhat profound, 90 oddly transcendent. Anything beyond that, frankly, is pretty grating. But it is undeniably, inexhaustibly hers. There is way more to Yoko than that, of course. But there is still, definitely, that.

So let us celebrate. Last Tuesday night’s We Are Plastic Ono Band fete at BAM was a both a surreal, star-studded partial reunion of the fantastically polarizing art-rock band she first convened in the late ’60s, and a showcase for the very much active latter-day iteration that cut a super-weird, strangely alluring new record, Between My Head and the Sky, six months ago. This was a tribute that made very clear it wasn’t a eulogy, looking back while charging boldly forward. A brief career-retrospective video set the scene—the performance art, the activism, the apocalyptic yodeling, the fawning quotes from cohorts and contemporaries (Ann Magnuson: “No wonder the coolest guy in the world fell in love with her!”), the indeed simultaneously heartwarming and -rending scenes of marital bliss with John Lennon—but when the curtain rises, it’s all present tense. Behold Yoko herself, in the flesh, prancing regally about the stage, lithe and vivacious, clad in all black with dark glasses and a jaunty little hat, like a feminine, septuagenarian, Japanese, diminutive Slash.

Your bandleader this evening is her son, Sean Lennon, an eerie visual and vocal echo of his father—”It’s kind of creepy when he sings,” notes a friend who’d also attended the previous night’s dress-rehearsal show, and verily Sean will later rip into the death-haunted Beatles jam “Yer Blues” with discomfiting aplomb. For Act 1, he commands a core band of experimental-pop heavyweights, including Yuka Honda (she of Cibo Matto) and Keigo Oyamada (a/k/a Cornelius), himself tossing in a little piano but mostly switching off between guitar and bass, depending on how cool the bassline is.

They mix in a few oldies (most notably frigid, ominous dance-floor semi-classic “Walking on Thin Ice”) with Between My Head and the Sky’s various psychedelic jams, the title track (cool bassline!) a slick blast of cracked funk, “Moving Mountains” a seedy den of pastoral, yodel-heavy freak-folk ecstasy. Expert flourishes of cello (courtesy Erik Friedlander) and trumpet (Michael Leonhart) mingle with all the electronic bleeps and burps. Yoko glides through all of it, precocious but supremely confident, her lyrics warm and direct and unapologetically new-agey: “I flew up into the universe/I can see you/I love you for what you are.”

Throughout, she maintains a torrent of loopy banter with both the crowd and Sean himself. “He’s the music director,” she tells us after blazing through “Thin Ice.” “He’s always saying, ‘It’s great, it’s great,’ to make me feel better.” (Sean’s reply: “I’m not lying, Mom. That was pretty good.”) This goofy, familial vibe nicely sets the table for Act II, when the surreal parade of guest stars begins in earnest, an odd bout of Yoko karaoke with a loose, sweet, occasionally half-assed feel, like we’ve abandoned BAM’s luxe digs and are now chilling in some wood-paneled rec room at the Dakota, indulging in a hastily assembled talent show. Jake Shears and Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters strut through the mutant-disco incantation “The Sun Is Down.” Justin Bond tears theatrically into the passive-aggressive romantic-firefight torch song “What a Bastard the World Is.” Paul Simon and his son, Harper (notably lacking in Sean and Yoko’s natural onstage chemistry), take up acoustic guitars and wobble through a waywardly Simonized conflation of her “Silverhorse” and John’s “Hold On.” And Gene Ween (!!) does his own acoustic duet with Sean, blasting sweetly through none other than “Oh Yoko!,” straining for the high notes, which only makes the whole thing more adorable and bewildering.

Oh, plus Bette Midler shows up and burns it down, turning “Yes, I’m Your Angel”—Yoko’s gift to John for his much-dreaded 40th birthday—into a kicky cabaret farce, her booming TRA-LA-LA-LA-LA’s commanding their own italics-and-caps-lock action. And this just after Yoko joins Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon for “Mulberries,” a free-form, guitar-shredding tantrum of shrieking feedback and copious yodeling. Yoko explains the song’s genesis: As a child in Japan during World War II, she’d attempted to feed her family by picking mulberries, holding up the hem of her dress to carry as many as she could while enraptured by the beauty of the sky—the mind that can translate such a strange, sad, gorgeous scene into a violent, atonal, Sonic Youth–assisted dirge deserves respect, study, celebration.

We conclude with the original Plastic Ono Band semi-reunion, featuring Jim Keltner on drums, a smiley Klaus Voormann on bass, and a befuddled-looking Eric Clapton, rumbling through “Yer Blues” and early Ono ringers “Death of Samantha” and “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow),” Sean initially trying to trade surly guitar solos with Clapton but eventually, wisely laying off. We serenade Yoko with “Happy Birthday,” en masse. (77!) In return, she gives us songwriting advice (be general, not specific) and a brief pep talk: “You have a long life ahead of you. And it’s gonna be beautiful, if we just keep hugging each other and loving each other. It’s good for your health, you know.”

The program and Onochord light (Jen Carlson/Gothamist)

Live From BAM: Yoko Ono & Friends

by Jen Carlson, The Gothamist

Last night BAM housed quite an insane lineup, all part of Yoko Ono’s We Are The Plastic Ono Band one-night-only concert. We were lucky enough to be at the show, where the widow of John Lennon celebrated her 77th birthday (it’s tomorrow) just like the rest of us would—with friends like Bette Midler, Eric Clapton, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Paul Simon… you know, just a small gathering of some the biggest names in music.

The show began with a video tribute to Ono put together by her son Sean Lennon, who also served as a gracious host for the evening, introducing each musician and praising his mom from behind whatever instrument he happened to be playing at the time. The first act was all Ono, with a band backing her that included Sean as well as Mark Ronson.

The second act brought out a mixed bag of guest musicians, for the most part all singing Ono’s songs in their own way (though there was a rendition of the Beatles “Yer Blues” courtesy of Mr. Clapton). The Scissor Sisters, Gene Ween, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, Bette Midler (with Sean Lennon, Doveman, and others backing her), Justin Bond, Paul Simon and his son Harper, Beatles collaborator Klaus Voormann, Eric Clapton… they were all there. Ono noted that this was the first time she, Clapton and Voormann had played together in 40 years! And at the end, the group (sans an M.I.A. Clapton) came back on stage for an all-star rendition of “Give Peace A Chance,” with new lyrics penned by Ono that she grabbed from the morning’s headlines. We snuck some video that you can see after the jump (the entire show was also filmed, so expect a DVD at some point).

We’ll leave you with some parting advice courtesy of Justin Bond, who performed “What A Bastard the World Is” last night—he told the audience to follow Ono on Twitter and do everything she says. If you want to play catch-up, on the 12th she told her online audience: “I would advise you to send a bucket of shadow to a friend.”

Large collection of photos by Kevin Mazure at Brooklyn Vegan.

Yoko Ono Honored by Eric Clapton, Paul Simon and more in New York

by Kenneth Partridge, Spinner

Due to a malfunctioning microphone, Yoko Ono stood momentarily mute Tuesday night at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music, mouthing inaudible cackles while her son, Sean Lennon, sloshed with Eric Clapton through a mean and muddy version of the Beatles’ ‘Yer Blues.’

Without hesitation, a stagehand rushed from the wings and handed Ono a working microphone, allowing her feral shrieks to compete with Slowhand’s expert riffing.

On any other night, that stagehand might have risked boos and lobbed bottles. Not on Tuesday, however, as an incongruous bunch of musicians joined forces for ‘We Are Plastic Ono Band,’ a loving tribute to Ono and her various artistic achievements.

The performance featured everyone from Sonic Youth principals Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore — whose dual-guitar take on ‘Mulberry’ evoked the World War II air-raid drill Ono said inspired the song — to Bette Midler, who vamped it up on a flirty, jazzy ‘Yes, I’m Your Angel.’

Paul Simon and son Harper sang a pair of duets, including a tender ‘Hold On,’ from 1970’s ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ album, while alt-rock mainstay Gene Ween joined Sean Lennon — the evening’s musical director — for a spot-on ‘Oh Yoko,’ another highlight from John’s solo catalog.

The drag-queen torch singer and performance artist Justin Bond got hammy on ‘What a Bastard the World Is,’ switching back and forth between his male and female voice, acting out a scoundrel’s attempts to win back his woman. Scissor Sisters singers Jake Shears and Ana Matronic, meanwhile, presided over a funky ‘The Sun Is Down,’ sashaying like Wham in the ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ video.

The show was split into two acts, the first of which centered more on Ono, who turns 77 tomorrow, than special guests. The artist — “singer” isn’t quite the word — offered up plenty of her patented oscillating high-pitched mating-call vocals, transforming the placid likes of ‘Rising’ into nightmarish lullabies.

As a short film that prefaced the concert emphasized, such fearlessness has long defined Ono’s art. Whether painting or protesting, cutting disco-funk records or making movies of mosquitoes walking across her naked body, she’s always pushed audiences to put aside comfort and view the world from novel angles.

While some critics — particularly those operating under the misconception she broke up the Beatles — are dubious of Ono’s talent, the musicians on hand for ‘We Are Plastic Ono Band’ have long since swilled the Kool-Aid.

The entire cast took the stage for an encore rendition of ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ a slapdash version whose new Ono-penned lyrics were inspired by the morning’s newspaper headlines. The number had barely been rehearsed — at a run-through the night before, the ensemble played in a different key — and Ono must have known there was a chance the whole thing would fall apart.

Naturally, she did it anyway.

We Are Plastic Ono Band

(BAM Howard Gilman Opera House; 2,109 seats; $150 top.)

by David Sprague, Variety

Yoko Ono can throw herself just about any sort of party that might strike her fancy, so one day before her 77th birthday, she opted to take over one of Gotham’s most beautiful concert halls and let her freak flag fly — as high and spectacularly vividly as it ever has.

For the better part of three hours, Ono and a wide array of peers and acolytes treated a sold-out crowd to an alternately uncompromising and tender stream of sonic consciousness that came across as one part tribute and one part affirmation that she’s not only still kicking, but still evolving. From the taped nature sounds that echoed through the auditorium pre-performance to the vintage art installations that lined the walls, the feel was more akin to the environments Ono created four decades ago than a concert as such.

For the first segment of the show, Ono and her current band snaked through a passel of pieces, gradually intensifying the volume and tension. For the opening number, “It Happened” (a relatively obscure early ’80s B-side), Ono used a hushed tone, then gradually built into her trademark wails and other ululations for “Mind Train” and “Moving Mountains” — both of which brimmed with the passionate edginess that’s elicited such passionate adoration (or its polar opposite) over the years.

After a brief break, the mood shifted to one of tribute — with Ono popping in now and again to take part in the action. Bette Midler, one of the more unexpected names on the guest list, turned in an appropriately sweet, cabaret-styled “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” while Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore dove headlong into a reverb-heavy “Mulberry,” one of the most improvisational tracks Ono and John Lennon recorded together.

Lennon’s spirit hovered in the background of the second set, most notably on a version of “Yer Blues” that reunited Ono, Klaus Voorman and Eric Clapton — the last of whom also unspooled some stinging solos during a set-ending salvo of “Death of Samantha” and a thoroughly hypnotic “Don’t Worry Kyoko.”

The evening ended, as might be expected, with an all-hands-on-deck sing-along of “Give Peace a Chance,” a message that was, of course, welcome. But fortunately, the program as a whole reminded the audience that disturbing the peace is every bit as important sometimes.

Presented by: Jared Geller, David J Foster, Sean Lennon and David Newgarden.

Band: Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Yuka Honda, Keigo Oyamada, Shimmy Hirotaka Shimizu, Haruomi Hasomo, Yuko Araki, Michael Leonhart, Erik Friedlander.

Special Guests: Eric Clapton, Bette Midler, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Paul Simon, Harper Simon, Klaus Voorman, Jim Keltner, Gene Ween, Justin Bond, Mark Ronson, Scissor Sisters. Reviewed Feb. 17, 2010.

NBC New York

Mark Ronson Shares Stage With Yoko Ono at BAM

by Mawuse Ziegbe, NBC New York

Music industry heavyweights joined Yoko Ono on stage at BAM last night for an evening that included performances by Eric Clapton, members of Sonic Youth, the Scissor Sisters, Bette Midler andMark Ronson.

The We Are Plastic Ono Band show Tuesday night drew many of Ono’s close friends and her son Sean Lennon, who offered the crowd sunny anecdotes about the performers like the time Clapton showed him how to play “Yer Blues” in the style of his father, John Lennon.

Ono noted that the onstage reunion is the first time that she, Clapton and Beatles collaborator Klaus Voormann had performed together in 40 years.

Bette Midler and Ono heartily embraced when the legendary singer delivered a saucy version of Ono’s song, “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” which Ono said she wrote to ease John Lennon’s fears about turning 40. Ono also embraced Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon after their screeching experimental collaboration “Mulberry,” with the short film “The Fly” directed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono serving as the backdrop.

Mark Ronson, Scissor Sisters and Justin Bond also performed during the event. However, it was the intimate nature of the show, where pop music luminaries showed up to support their old friend, which made the night unique.

From MTV Music Blog

Our colleague Jon Mallow from LOGO reports from last night’s Plastic Ono Band show

Yoko Ono and Plastic Ono Band rocked the Brooklyn Academy of Music last night. She just rocks, it’s that simple – even in a performance billed as a “dress rehearsal” for a show tonight which I’m sure will be insane. After starting with a short video that chronicled her legendary career in performance and music as well as her personal and artistic partnership with John Lennon, 77-year-old Ono emerged and danced and did her trademark vocal modulations.

Oh the incredible vocal stylings of Yoko Ono. What can I say? They are unrivaled, brilliant and haunting. Period. With her son Sean Lennon as the musical director along with a new version of Plastic Ono Band, Ono covered a significant portion of her classic and more recent catalog, including uptempo highlight Walking on Thin Ice, as well as Mind Train and Don’t Worry Kyoko. It was seriously so good…I could barely contain myself.

Act 2 of the show featured guest artists covering Ono songs, with and without Ono herself. The Scissor Sisters kicked it off with The Sun in Down followed by a person favorite of mine, Justin Bond, doing What a Bastard the World Is. The chorus (You know half the world is occupied with you pigs / I can always get another pig like you / You’ve heard of female liberation, well, that’s for me, / You’ll see me walk out one day and then where will you be?) was delivered strongly in Justin’s gravelly and gorgeous voice – and clearly the female lib line takes on an interesting new meaning when sung by a performer who so masterfully rejects traditional gender. Ono then re-emerged with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth for a piece called Mulberry – which they’ve apparently done before together. The entire back wall of the stage featured a huge projection of Ono’s Fly Piece, a close up video of a fly walking on a woman’s nipple and lips. This was some serious alt performance music poetry bliss if you ask me. I felt like I died and went to Fluxus/rock heaven.

Ono remains so avant-garde yet so committed to her simple message of love and world peace. All the performers joined for the finale – Give Peace a Chance – a message which is so relevant and meaningful — then, now and forever.

Tonight is the real show, and there are bigger stars on the bill like Eric Clapton and Bette Midler (um, what’s the Divine Miss M going to do in this show?). Historic and genius are the two words that come to mind for me.

Among other things, Jon Mallow is the host of Drag Ya Later on

by Max Abelson, New York Observer

“I have to tell you,” Yoko Ono said to her audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Tuesday night, a few days before her 77th birthday, “you have a long life ahead of you, and it’s going to be beautiful.”

Her Brooklyn Academy of Music show — half concert, half tribute–was filled with all kinds of things: shimmying, screeching, thumping, family members, guitar gods, art films, drag, a tuba, a cello, and as Ms. Ono would say, a lot of cosmic splendor. The first half was full of thick, loud, strange, twisting grooves. If you think of Yoko Ono only as a screechy-voiced Beatles destroyer, that wouldn’t be a good thing. But this wasn’t music for a pilates class in Westchester–it was interstellar and kaleidoscopic, with pelvic bass lines bouncing below gooey guitars and horns. She sashayed, shuffled, shook and swayed. Sometimes it took her across the stage, especially on the groovier songs from last year’s Between My Head and the Sky. The exclamation point in “Ask the Elephant!” deserves to be there.

The first set ended unexpectedly gently. Over only trickles of piano from her son, Sean Lennon, and a late-night Tom Waits horn, Ms. Ono sang in Japanese and English about hell and earth: It was the kind of thing that could sound like bad Philip Glass, but it was smoky and sad.

But the tribute half of the concert (“Act II,” as it’s called on the We Are Plastic Ono Band program) stole the show. First of all, in the spirit of Ms. Ono’s canyon-sized proclamations, I’ve got to say that the sound Paul Simon and his son, Harper, made on the two songs they played and sang together was one of the most exceedingly warm things I’ve ever heard live on a stage. They played “Hold On” from John Lennon’s first solo album, and “Silver Horse” from Season of Glass, Ono’s first after his death. One is sung to a wife, and the other is sung by a widow.

Eric Clapton, the guest that came on afterwards, turns 65 next month. But his guitar, especially on The White Album‘s “Yer Blues,” was hysterical, sludgy, and huge. “In sound check, he was teaching me to play how my Dad did it,” said the younger Mr. Lennon. “A touch sophisticated.”

Justin Bond, who performs in boozy drag as a half of Kiki and Herb, played Ms. Ono’s jilted-woman torch song “What a Bastard the World Is.” Beforehand there was a joke about Ms. Ono’s Twitter, which gives advice about sending diagrams of your footsteps and flammable paper moons to friends: “A lot of the time I don’t know what she’s talking about,” said Mr. Bond, “but I do everything she says.”

Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon played Mulberry, which was not amused, not amusing, and what the Times politely referred to in its review of the show as “arrhythmic.” With more rhythm, amusement and tuba, Bette Midler came on next to play “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” a few minutes of caramelized bath house jazz.

After “Rising,” one of the first set’s arty disco songs, full of Ms. Ono’s points and crouches and marches, Mr. Lennon son whispered something to into her ear. “He’s always saying, ‘Oh it’s great, it’s great,’ to make me feel good,” she explained.

“I’m not lying, Mom,” he said. The crowd sighed. A few days before the concert, Ms. Ono told this reporter about her maternal feelings: “You would never know, because you’re not old enough, I’m sorry to use those expressions, but when your son grows up, and he’s doing his own thing,” she told this reporter, “it’s nice to get a chance to be with him for a while.”

She said the show’s guests had been his idea. “It’s an honor!” she said. “I’m doing a regular show of mine, and then they’re sort of added. Added bombs! Not bombs! Bombs is a bad word! What is it? Added sparkling stars.”


FEB 16, 2010 • 8PM

YOKO ONO with the incredible, once-in-a-lifetime line-up of Justin Bond, Eric Clapton, Cornelius, Kim Gordon, Yuka Honda, Haruomi Hosono, Jim Keltner, Sean Lennon, Bette Midler, Thurston Moore, Mark Ronson, Scissor Sisters, Harper Simon, Paul Simon, Klaus Voormann & Martha Wainwright.

Jared Geller, David J Foster, Sean Lennon and David Newgarden present

We Are Plastic Ono Band

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
February 16, 2010

Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band

Yoko Ono (vocals), Sean Lennon (guitar, bass, piano), Yuka Honda (keyboard),
Keigo Oyamada (guitar, tenori-on, electronics), Shimmy Hirotaka Shimizu (guitar, bass),
Yuko Araki (drums), Michael Leonhart (trumpet) and Erik Friedlander (cello)

Lobby Art Installations
Wish Tree for BAM (Yoko Ono – 2010)
Apple (Yoko Ono – 1966)
Play It By Trust (Yoko Ono – 1966/1998)
Film No.4 “Bottoms” (Yoko Ono – 1966)
Toilet Thoughts Film No.3 poster (Yoko Ono 1968)
“Sky”, “Dream”, “War Is Over!”, “Imagine Peace” banners (Yoko Ono)

Welcoming Birds
Animation by Jordan Galland | Illustration by Sean Lennon

Opening Film
by Jenny Golden & Sean Lennon

Act I

It Happened

Waiting For The D Train / Why
(with special guest Mark Ronson)

Between My Head and The Sky

(special guest Haruomi Hosono joins for remainder of Act I)

Walking On Thin Ice

Moving Mountains


Mind Train / Ask The Elephant

Higa Noboru

Act II

The Sun Is Down
Performed by Scissor Sisters
Animation by Yoji Kuri, from the film AOS (1964)
Edited by Keigo Oyamada

What A Bastard The World Is
Performed by Justin Bond

Oh Yoko
Performed by Gene Ween

Performed by Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore
FLY film by Yoko Ono/John Lennon (1970)

Yes, I’m Your Angel
Performed by Bette Midler with Thomas Bartlett, Jeff Hill,
Michael Leonhart, Sean Lennon, Marcus Rojas
Erik Friedlander, Keigo Oyamada and Shimmy Hirotaka Shimizu

Performed by Paul Simon and Harper Simon

Hold On
Performed by Paul Simon and Harper Simon

Yer Blues
Performed by Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner
and Sean Lennon

Death of Samantha
Performed by Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner
and Sean Lennon

Don’t Worry Kyoko
Performed by Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner
and Sean Lennon

All songs written by Yoko Ono, except Oh Yoko and Hold On by
John Lennon, and Yer Blues by Lennon/McCartney.

(We regret that Martha Wainwright is unable to perform this evening
as planned. Our thoughts are with her and her family. )

Studio One: Karla Merrifield, Amanda Keeley, Helen Barden, Sibyl Bender, Connor Monahan, Andrew Kachel, Ellen Goldin, Anne Terada, Tolga Olsoy
Advisory: Jonas Herbsman, Peter Shukat, John Gula
Chimera Music: Sean Lennon, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, Yuka Honda, David Newgarden, Corrie Deeb
Chimera Japan: Takako Yagi, Maho Ikeda Simon Hilton
Manage This!: David Newgarden, Ashley Ayers, Bernadette Kelly, Amy Winslow
Foster Entertainment: David J Foster, Jared Geller, Malinda Sorci, Jennie Connery
Kristen Foster PR
Tell All Your Friends: Kip Kouri, Grace Jones, Molly Small
Pro Travel: Laurie Robinson
Production Manager: Kelly Martindale
Stage Manager: Frank Hartenstein
Transportation Coordinator: Rod Marsden
Hospitality: Melissa Caruso-Scott
Poster design: Marke Johnson, illustration: Sean Lennon
Sound, lighting & technical: Jakey Slater, Tom Pambrun, Kurt Wolf, Gary Hood, Alban Sardzinski, Paul Cress, Peter Gary, Nat Jencks, David Hyman, Scott Seader, Dan Dearnly, Jeff Shaw, Paul Vershbow


[email protected]

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7 Responses to BAM! by Yoko Ono: We Are Plastic Ono Band: Yoko + incredible special guests: Brooklyn Academy of Music, NY 16 Feb

  1. Hoassewek says:

    Hello, very capable Picture. Hope, will see more! Thanks
    tennis essen

  2. Holly says:

    Great!!! Please send me a brouchure of the gathering…I would have love to have been there!!!

    Love you Yoko,

    Holly Ward

  3. Mindtrain says:

    Thank you for your comments about BAM, Yoko. I traveled 3,000 miles to be there. I wasn’t able to attend your residency at Kenny’s Castaway in the 70’s. I was just a kid and I wouldn’t find your music for a few more years (when I went off to college). I still look at that program and marvel at what you did. (And AIU remains, probably, one of the most important records of my life.) Last Monday and Tuesday were incredible. Thank you so much. I spent every penny I had to be there. It was worth it. Love, R. (and see you in Oakland!)

  4. suchaclatter says:

    Looking forward to the SF Bay Area show next week:

  5. w.wei says:

    i want go to nyc..

  6. Lee New says:

    So awesome. The concert of the decade. Have fun.

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