Reviews: John Winston would be proud of him
Wednesday 13 May 1998
Camden Falcon, London
When you consider the tragedy of his father's death and the roll-over jackpot of his inherited wealth, perhaps the most remarkable thing about is how well adjusted he appears to be.
He wandered on stage in a black "New Rock" T-shirt which traced the contours of a well-toned upper torso, smiled conspiratorially at his audience, and eased into the relaxed bossa nova of "Into the Sun" with the stressless air of a deckchair vendor. As he and the diminutive singer Miho Hatori watched each other's lips, the better to meld their harmonies, you sensed the intrigued audience already warming to Lennon's nonchalance. Later, he told us that this UK debut was his own and his band's seventh gig ever.
Hatori doubling on drums, Lennon's girlfriend Yuka Honda on keyboards, Timo Ellis on bass and the dreadlocked percussionist Duma Love cementing the grooves, made a visually arresting cosmopolitan line-up.
Naturally, there was a fair amount of doe-eyed interaction between Sean and Yuka, and when Sean introduced her as the muse of his life, she winked both eyes and blew him a kiss. That Mills and Boon sponsorship can't be far away.
Occasionally, the complex vocal harmonies on songs such as "Spaceship" and "Mystery Juice" went a little awry, but Lennon and his band's musicianship was not in question. As they switched from Latin to pop, to grunge and to jazz, the genre-fest of the Into the Sun album was extremely well received by an audience that was hearing most of it for the first time.
Indeed, this air of serendipity was the gig's strength; the musical plot taking endless twists and turns and Sean adapting his guitar-playing accordingly.
In a week when a bootleg-driven court case had brought the Beatles into the news again, I had half-hoped to see George Harrison or Yoko Ono be in the audience. Instead, gaggles of Japanese girls who looked as if sushi wouldn't melt in their mouths lapped up the Sean/ Yuka dynamic, while feverishly snapping with their Polaroids. There were others, though, who despite being equally determined to make contact with Lennon DNA, were less well-intentioned. One cynic sneered audibly when Sean related how he'd recently been treated to a personal performance of "Little Surfer Girl" by the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. "Maybe that happens to you every day, but for me it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience thing," he reported calmly. No doubt the resounding cheer from the audience added to the heckler's sheepishness.
It was this minor fracas that heralded Sean's cover version of "God Only Knows", the Beach Boys' classic which Sir Paul McCartney considers to be the greatest pop single of all time. Through a combination of thrilled reverence and sheer nerve, they just about carried it off.
John Winston would have been proud.
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