I was more intrigued than excited about seeing Sean Lennon at Liverpool University on Saturday evening. That he was a singer-song-writer in his own right (or "write", as his father once punned ) was of more interest to me than any superficial concerns about family resemblance or inherited musical influence.
However, a reminder of his father's fate & its consequences for his family was evident as the audience filed outside the venue. Normally, "security" extends to a millisecond of eye contact with the guy on the door. This time, however, there was a double security check, a frisking just outside the venue, followed by the same measure just inside the Stanley Theatre.
A typical gig crowd, the age range being mixed, included a few people belonging to that generation which would have remembered the Beatles before their break-up. Lurking amongst this element of the audience was Peter Grant, erstwhile rock reviewer for the Liverpool Echo, & its sister paper, the Daily Post. In contrast to most critics, Grant told anyone who would listen how much he was looking forward to the gig. My initial surprise at this sentiment quickly gave way to the realisation that it is almost heretical for any measured, let alone hostile, pieces on anything Beatle related to be filed for the local media; why slaughter the cash cow, the thing that draws in the tourists each year to the increasingly tacky Matthew Street Festival?
After two numbers, Lennon, visibly hesitant at the thought of breaking the ice at this symbolic gig, stumbled into speech.
"Um, well, hello," he ventured.
The crowd's response was instantly warm & welcoming. Appreciative calls from the audience punctuated the 90 minute set. At one point, Lennon smiled & apologised, "I hear what you say, but I can't really understand you!"
His accent was pure Manhattan, yet his vocals did evoke his father on the "White Album". As for appearance, the shoulder-length hair & beard suggested Lennon Snr. circa 68/69. His sartorial attire, however,recalled the early Beatle period, when suits were still "de rigeur". References to his father were brief. It was enough that he was playing this city, a statement in itself.
Yet he did refer to it in a typically leftfield Lennon way when expressing his nerves at playing Liverpool, "seeing as my dad grew up here, if you didn't know."
The suffix in the comment drew much laughter from the audience, like a well-received punchline to a joke. Lennon, hitherto relatively tense & cautious, visibly loosened up. He even joked with the crowd about his out of tune acoustic guitar; as a guitarist, he displayed a dexterity which would have eluded You Know Who.
Aside from a cover of an obscure T-Rex track, the set consisted of his own material, which owed just a little to his father's style. What I found heartening was the fact that no-one in the audience called out for any of his father's songs. It was a reflection of this audience's musical maturity.