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Yoko Ono (Photo by Un Photo: Mark Garten)

Ono’s supergroup

Ornette Coleman, Antony Hegarty and Mark Ronson join Yoko’s plastic band
15 June 2009 - Yoko Ono’s difficult relationship with the British public might be partly to blame for the lack of a Plastic Ono band performance here until last night, but the fierce avant guardist made up for lost time with a string of guest cameos that all but stole the show.

Mark Ronson was unashamedly Beatles-esque in playing a Hofner bass for much of the set, Antony Hegarty sang on three tracks and since the gig forms part of the Ornette Coleman-curated Meltdown festival, it was more than fitting that the free jazz pioneer emerged for a stunning turn on saxophone during the encore.

Most in the crowd could have been forgiven for wondering whether Yoko’s free spirited avant guardism has waned over the years.

Even at 76, though, Ono wasn’t at all shy about shrieking as loudly and freely as needed, right from the cacophonous opener Why – a track she said she last performed forty years ago with the Beatles at Abbey Road studios.

Unashamedly not a conventionally gifted singer, Yoko’s voice was emotive if not note perfect, and proved to be an edgy foil for the haunting and distinctive tones of Antony Hegarty on three tracks, who by all accounts was one of the show’s highlights.

Together they performed Hegarty’s version of the track Toybeat - the first ever live rendition of the remix that featured on 2007’s Yes I’m A Witch - Rising And I'm Going Away Smiling.

The seven-piece Plastic Ono band, led by her son Sean, ranged from abstract, off-centre jams to tightly wound funk grooves, and although at times the many-headed beast looked like it might just lose its way, the guest appearances tended to keep things on track.

While the band were able to build some engaging grooves within this loose-tight arrangement, it was the entry of Ornette Coleman that really brought things alive.

His characteristically freeform sax playing on Mindtrain was nonchalant but always brilliantly timed, making the 1971 track sound as immediate and fiercely modern as ever.

It’s not very often that you’ll see Mark Ronson playing the egg cup at the side of the stage, nor will you usually see a statuesque Antony Hegarty singing standing up and out front, but the gig illustrated that Yoko Ono’s as unafraid as she ever was to challenge convention.

While the main set list took in most aspects of her forty-year musical career and a taste of her upcoming album Between My Head And The Sky, the encore was a reminder of Ono’s taste for the visual and the controversial.

It opened with a slow-running close up film of a fly crawling over a woman’s naked body while some frenzied guitar noise from Sean eventually broke into the darkly hued Don’t Worry Kyoko, another track Yoko said she hadn’t performed for several decades.

After Coleman’s superb performance on Mindtrain the show closed with The Sun Is Down, in which in lieu of lyrics, Yoko flashed a torch on and off to signify the words I Love You.

At this point I realised giving audience members mini Ono torches on the way in hadn’t been purely a marketing exercise.

Having begun her supergroup’s UK debut with the sound of crashing guitars and drums, the enigmatic, oft misunderstood Yoko bowed out silently, to several hundred twinkling lights.

Set list:

Why
Between My Head and the Sky
Open Your Box
Calling
Kurushi
Toyboat
Moving Mountains
Rising
I’m Going Away Smiling

Mulberry
Don’t Worry Kyoko

Mindtrain
The Sun Is Down

Rodrigo Davies

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Comments so far

One Virgin San Francisco
I'm nothing short of envious that this show happened outside the United States! What a dynamic set list to expierence!! Hopefully a mini-tour of America will surface .... we can only hope that surprise guests will dorp in on the re-emergence of ... The PLASTIC ONO BAND ....

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