John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band
"Live in Toronto '69' DVD "
Shout Factory

Blueswax 6
Rating 6

Lennon, Clapton & Co; but Beware of Yoko! (06/24/09)

This John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band concert took place on September 13, 1969, at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Festival at Varsity Stadium on the eve of the release of Abbey Road, the Beatles' last recording. On a whim Lennon decided to fly to Toronto with his wife, Yoko Ono, guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Klaus Voormann, and drummer Alan White, who pay homage to early musical heroes performing at the festival: Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. Each performs one tune to start off this DVD. Of particular note is a powerful "Diddley" on "Bo Diddley," then a short take of "Hound Dog" by Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard roaring through "Lucille."

At this point Lennon walks up to the microphone and says; "We're just going to do numbers we know, you know, because we've never played together before." But the seasoned rockers stride their way through Blues-based oldies like "Blue Suede Shoes," "Money," "Dizzy Miss Lizzie," and then recent Lennon tunes "Yer Blues," "Cold Turkey," and "Give Peace a Chance." The band sounds great, especially Clapton with the remnants of Cream still ringing through his guitar. His solos are concise, yet burning! You know it's going to eventually get weird when Yoko comes out on the stage and puts a sheet over herself, but it gets stranger when she starts singing (or is that yodeling?) on Lennon's tunes. After "Give Peace a Chance," Yoko takes over the vocal chores on "Don't Worry Kyoko," and "John, John (Give Peace a Chance).

To cut to the chase, her vocals are horrific! When this LP came out on Apple Records, the joke used to be that no one played the second side, known as the Yoko segment. Even though the band sounds good, Yoko's vocals destroy their efforts, and one wonders why her microphone was not turned off!

This DVD is worthwhile as an historical document. Plus, it captures an era of Lennon jamming on some old time R&R favorites, but you can mostly forget about the rest. The sound is pretty good throughout, and seeing bearded Lennon and Clapton looking so youthful is pretty cool, but they are the main focus of the photographer, as we barely get a peak of bassist Voormann and less glimpses of drummer Alan White. Last, and perhaps least, pass on the further weirdness of Yoko's 1988 interview, a forgetful bonus track.

Bob Putignano is a contributing editor at BluesWax. You may contact Bob at: web site: