7 April 2014

Starting at the end


Pic Neptuul, John Lennon Wall Prague 1981 Wikimedia Commons

Looking through a glass onion started with five claps, like pistol shots, 2-2-1 and ended with Imagine and then a few heartbeats, in pairs, then a single beat and dark. This is John Waters channelling John Lennon. Just two men on stage. John Waters standing, sometimes with guitar, wearing jeans and bomber jacket, sometimes with guitar in hard, standing upright, hardly moving, sometimes with guitar, speaking the words on JL and singing his songs, Beatles era and beyond. Stewart D'Arrietta at piano, filling in all the musical support, piano, harmony, left foot bass drum beats, at least once gurgling or bird song from an mp3 player, and a few times playing minor parts, as Chinese acupuncturist or whatever. I guess the patter was the words on JL, himself. I thought I'd heard a few of his lines before, witty, sensible, with early barbs but later sometimes verging on anger. He felt increasingly unpleasant in my hearing, the pop god genius worth more than some third world countries just trying to find himself in white and in view of Central Park. I'm not totally cynical here; fame and money changes people and I'm sure it's hard to adjust. I don't follow him so closely, but he seemed to give it a decent try and to act decently in doing so. I often wonder of the life of the Beatles: such fame and brilliance (and, to my ear, the whole greater than the sum of the parts) and it's all over by age 27 or so. What then? So there were the words of JL and an incredible string of renowned and memorable songs, from Hide your love away and Julia and Norwegian Wood through Love is all you need and Strawberry Field and Come together and Day in the life and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Then on to Plastic Ono days and bagism and the anger and resolution: Crippled inside, Working Class Hero, Whatever gets you through the night and Ballad of John and Yoko to Beautiful boy and Jealous guy and Isolation and of course, that magnum opus of all humanity (so it seems, perhaps just to every Classic radio station) Imagine. But less cynically, it does have a theme for all time and Peace and Love were constants for JL (and the Beatles and the era). He died aged 40 and that's one problem I had with this rendition. The guys on stage aren't so young and it had me wondering if JL would have done more than just be a nice guy into old age. I also found the music heavy, but then JL was the Beatle with the R&R in him and we were in a box, close to one PA stack so not in the best location for audio. I wondered if a slightly larger band might have lightened the feel (and the musical load on SD'A), even just a drummer. Not a full band - that would change this from a theatrical to a musical performance. JW's spoken voice as JL was really convincing to my ears. His sung voice was also very good, but given that we've heard all these songs so many times, the demands are so much greater. You couldn't help but notice the lightest nuance that didn't match the recorded original. So, I enjoyed it for the incredible collection of songs, I admired the accuracy, especially of the spoken word, and I came to feel just a bit disconcerted with JL's character. Enjoyed and informed but not enamoured.

John Waters (guitar, spoken and sung voice) played John Lennon and Stewart D'Arrietta (piano, harmonies) accompanied for the stage show, Looking through a glass onion, at the Canberra Theatre Playhouse.

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