By Stephan Kane
It was a gorgeous, sunny day in downtown Brooklyn on Sept. 15, the perfect atmosphere for a legendary performance by some of pop culture’s up-and-coming artists. Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band was headlining The Bowery Ballroom, a very intimate setting for the group and by all means suitable.
Yoko Ono released her latest album “Take Me to the Land of Hell” on Sept. 17, and it may be her most straight forward and sonically superior album to date. Produced by Sean Lennon and his record label Chimera Music, it is exciting to see the dream team of musicians rejuvenate this type of creativity.
Parishioner of peace and love, Ono has impressively spent nearly an entire career dedicated to world care and contribution with no signs of slowing down.
Internationally known for her marriage with one of Earth’s most important musicians, John Lennon, together they served as icons for a world to strive for.
War is over, if you want it. Bed peace, hair peace. Give peace a chance. These sayings are an intrinsic and critical part of the collective sub-conscious of today’s society, all started by Lennon and Ono in the revolutionary era of the late 1960s into the late 1970s.
Doors opened to the audience around 7 p.m. , and the anticipating line of people made its way into the lounge area of The Bowery Ballroom.
Each audience member were handed an ‘OnoChord’, a very innovative keychain LED light signifying peace and love. The new album “Take Me to the Land of Hell” was available for purchase.
About an hour later the main room’s doors were let open and the audience made their way to the front of the stage. Opening the show were various films from Ono’s vast art career.
Starting off was Ono’s remarkably striking “365 Bottoms,” featuring the bare behinds of dozens of people walking in the same motion, definitely revving up the crowd for great fun and humor.
Other films shown were the avant-garde “Fly,” showcasing a laying down Ono with a fly crawling over her body to the accompanying classic squeals and screams typical of Ono’s style.
An emotional and riveting moment of the opening segment was a showing of Lennon and Ono reading pieces from her book of poetry, entitled “Grapefruit,” over the audio of Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The final film shown before the band took the stage was a delightful short entitled “The Secret of My Long Life” with Ono silently dancing in place with great emotion and vitality.
At 8 p.m. the band made their way to the stage. Even at 80 years old, Ono was a lively presence.
The remaining seven members of the band, including Sean Lennon starting on bass, filled the stage as a wall of sound with heavy groove.
The set started with the first track from “Take Me to the Land of Hell” entitled “Moonbeams.” Ono swayed and frolicked about the stage. The Plastic Ono Band was complete with a trumpet player, keyboardist, two guitars, bass, drums and Ono herself.
Jumping right into the next track, “Cheshire Cat,” Lennon provided guitar licks strong enough to satisfy any Parliament Funkadelic fan. The song proves to be a great example of the state of raw and real rock music. Ono’s legendary, traditional and innate howling and squealing had the crowd in a trance as each song transitioned to the next.
In between songs, Ono reminisced about writing songs, including a colorful moment where Lennon presented a 14-plus minute song to producers during a time songs were typically less than three minutes.
Witnessing the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band live makes one realize just how influential her sound and presentation is with contemporary artists, from the early ‘80s with The B-52s and even up and coming acts like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
With a ferocity and precise energetic dynamic, Ono and her “orchestra,” as she called the band, induced the audience to fantastic dancing. The intimacy of The Bowery Ballroom provided a stellar setting for the night, with an aura of excitement throughout the packed room.
Lennon proved to be incredibly prolific, switching between instruments and singing melodic vocals.
A pinnacle point during the show was an emotional collaboration with Ono singing while Lennon played solemn and ingenious piano with great precision during a rendition of “Higa Noboru.” One can only imagine the chemistry between the two on stage. The talented band provided infectious rhythm for the entire set.
Later joining the team was guitarist “Earl Slick” a musician who most notability worked on “Double Fantasy.” Before closing the set, all went quiet and each member of the audience shined their ‘OnoChord’ as a light garden while Ono graced the crowd with the words, “I love you.”
The future is now and Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band is as strong as ever. Their latest record is a strong display of songs. Musical guests appear throughout the album including Lenny Kravitz, the tUnE-yArDs, Ad-rock and Mike D of Beastie Boys and even Philadelphia’s own Questlove of The Roots.
All in all, the Plastic Ono Band is alive and prosperous. In its strongest form to date, there is no sign of “plastic” artificiality with the genuine, authentic and outstanding new album.
One of the greatest leaders of our time in the movement toward human spiritual growth, Ono, has returned— a cause for celebration.