Sean Lennon | 04.19.07

Although Lennon's legacy hung thickly in the air, and at least one conversation took place in the audience speculating that most in the sold-out crowd were there to see Beatle royalty rather than to enjoy the music of Sean Lennon, this "Beautiful Boy" didn't so much as acknowledge his past, or mention his famous parents.

 

w/Women and Children
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, St. Louis

It can't be easy being the progeny of a Beatle and trying to carve out a unique musical career for yourself. Talk about having colossal shoes to fill! Zach Starkey solved this problem by becoming an ace session drummer; Julian Lennon, not so much. John Lennon's other son, Sean, performed at the Duck Room on April 19 on the heels of his angst-ridden second CD, Friendly Fire.

And to his credit, Lennon simply came out with his band, served up his songs, and rocked the place more than adequately. Although the legacy hung thickly in the air, and at least one conversation took place in the audience speculating that most in the sold-out crowd were there to see Beatle royalty rather than to enjoy the music of Sean Lennon, this "Beautiful Boy" (the name of a song his dad dedicated to him on his final album) didn't so much as acknowledge his past, or mention his famous parents.

And why should he? Lennon revealed himself to be a surprisingly nimble guitarist (he really dazzled with some of his licks, especially on "Falling Out of Love," which also showcased pleasing falsetto vocals) and a musician with a good sense of dynamics. Girlfriend Yuka Honda (of the avant-rock band Cibo Matto) played keyboards, which were uniformly strong…and it's worth noting that Lennon's personal life is apparently back on track after some well-publicized heartache. His frequent glances over at Honda, and warm words for her when introducing his band, showed that Lennon's obviously in a better place now, emotionally. He seemed upbeat and relaxed throughout the show.

Lennon cut a striking figure indeed, wearing a red shirt and white jacket ensemble, with a stylish black hat and dark tie. At one point, he commented on the Duck Room being the place where Chuck Berry plays, and spontaneously broke into a Berry guitar lick. At another point, Lennon went into an amusing anecdote on how he was wearing "Van Halen socks from the '80s," which he theorized could be worth up to $200 now. To an inaudible audience request for a particular song, he calmly replied "Hey, I gotta play songs that I wanna play." This was somehow reassuring, to hear that this musician with potential baggage galore was in command of his career and his performance aesthetic.

There was both poignancy and fresh craftsmanship in what Lennon chose to play. A pair of mellow tunes from his latest CD were among the highlights: "Wait for Me" featured a vocal warmly reminiscent of Lennon's dad, with some engagingly assured guitar work. "On Again Off Again" was a lovely song that almost sounded like a collaboration between John Lennon and Squeeze; it had a delightfully quirky pop sound to it. After the rousing opener "Spectacle," which showcased Honda's ace synth work, Lennon spoke for a few minutes about how he had toured seven years ago in a band with his paramour. Amusingly, he commented how staying at a Motel 6 at the time reminded him of the movie Psycho.

There was a vague sense that the novelty of seeing him eclipsed any individual tunes played, but besides the ones mentioned earlier, other strong offerings included the pretty piano ballad "Friendly Fire" and the rousing, uptempo rocker "Headlights." The two short encores included an emotional performance of "Would I Be the One" performed by Lennon solo on acoustic guitar. In such moments, he made it clear that it would be unwise to bet against him creating a legacy of fine, heartfelt rock 'n' roll in his own right, despite the burden of his lineage.

The show's openers were Women and Children, a band Lennon handpicked to tour with him. They offered some texturally pleasing, laid-back grooves and tight harmonies to warm up the restless crowd. | Kevin Renick

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