I had this idea of low-key-bedroom-pop, this image of acoustic duo in my mind when thinking about the music of Sean Lennon and partner-bandmate Charlotte Kemp Muhl, but I was totally wrong! They completely surprised me with their full band and full sound at the El Rey Theater on Saturday night. Sean insisted several times that it was their first tour with this large band, and that the El Rey was probably the largest place they had ever played,.. ‘Yes, Largo is cool too,’ he added responding to someone in the crowd, ‘but we are very happy to be here’. And they showed it many times, playing nine songs of ‘Midnight Sun’, their second proper album together, sounding more psychedelic than I had ever expected.
But before the GOASTT – have you noticed that their cool acronym still sounds like ghost? – another poltergeist-inspired band did open the night with éclat. Obviously, you may think that Fever the Ghost obtained the spot because there’s also ghost in the moniker, but Sean explained later he really liked their music when he saw them at SXSW… I bet there are many local bands who would have loved to open for GOASTT, and this may mean a great future for them, in fact they could well be the next MGMT. The stage looked more like an UFO landing at the surface of a foreign planet than a music scene, with fantasy-world visuals popping up behind them, and a soundtrack of glam-electronic-rock with heavily distorted reverb vocals,… there was too much New Age, UFO fantasy and cartoon imagery for me to process at the same time, but these fascinating projections combined with a psychedelia-drenched music was probably as close as I will ever be to an acid trip. They brought a bit of 70s-throwback, some satisfying guitar solos and overall some original and complex but hard-to-follow-melodies. May be they are trying very hard to be among the fwends on the next Flaming Lips’ sort-of-things, they certainly are the type, but people seemed to love the whole package, the weirdness, the flashing synth, the blue hair and aluminum foil jacket. If the music did not convince me totally, it had its moments and may be this is what matters,… at the end, the Fever the Ghost experience looked more like a fantasy of a rock concert of the future than anything else.
GOASTT took the stage after a short and strange theatrical introduction by people dressed in gold, agitating silvery strips whipping the air, while talking about computer, robots and eating rabbits. Although I had no real idea of what was going on, this was funny and unexpected, and Sean Lennon, who appeared in full late-period John Lennon look (long hair and beard) was even wearing a high tin foil hat above his top hat,… which ghost were we chasing exactly? Sean Lennon doesn’t even try to avoid it, the ghost of his father is front row all the time, he must have cleverly understood this since the beginning of his career. Before the show I was hearing conversations about,… the Beatles, and looking around, the audience was made of youngsters going out to hear the Beatle of their generation or older folks wearing ‘Working Class Hero’ t-shirts. How do you deal with that, do you have even a chance when you are the son of Lennon? But Sean embraced the ghost without making him too obvious and he did it all night with a very friendly and humble tone that resonated among the public. The songs exploded in a sort of ‘I-am-The-Walrus’ DNA, bathing in a Syd Barrett-inspired full instrumentation, with epic guitars – Charlotte was wearing a Zappa t-shirt – and avalanches of sweet vocal harmonies between the two. It was psychedelic but tainted by a certain time, sometimes playful, sometimes a bit strange, but with more Willy-Wonka-sugar-coated weirdness than drug-induced-coma oddity. There are many psychedelia after all, and this one was very sweet, even moving, revealing a great complicity between Sean and Charlotte. She took the lead vocals on the song ‘Johannesburg’ and the song took a more ethereal and charming turn. Sean promised free kisses, then a free vinyl to anyone able to guess whom they were about to cover, an easy guess since ‘Golden Earrings’ a totally re-shaped cover of Peggy Lee’s 1940s gypsy ballad, is featured on their album. Songs such as ‘Poor Paul Getty’ or ‘Devil You Know’ were opening fields of strawberries dipped down into a Pink-Floyd-esque era, letting earworms surface out of their psychedelic circus.
Sean was very talkative during the whole show, mentioning these In & Out Burger places (the best thing about LA), talking about giving a female name to their projector which was filling the back of the stage with pink clouds, meeting Charlotte-Cleopatra as Marc Anthony – I just remember there was a dumb beetle involved in the story? – and introducing his band after promising he and Charlotte will be at the merchandize booth after the show,… ‘I will be there!’ and he was not kidding. Before the encore, the harmony-galore of ‘Moth to a Flame’ ended into a seven-minute piece part breezy, part epic, and more than ever I had Barrett in my mind. And they actually covered Barrett during the encore, with ‘Long Gone’ after singing the ‘first song they had written together’, the sweet glockenspiel-rhythm-ed ‘The World Was Made For Men’.
They effectively went at the merchandise booth just after the concert, and this was a scene I had never seen at the El Rey, people lining up to get their vinyl signed, way past midnight. I am not sure the security at the El Rey was totally expecting this, but, incredibly, Charlotte and Sean sat down at a table and were still signing and accepting to pause for pictures when I left the theater long after the end of the signing. They looked extremely cute together, behaving like normal people, confident and not even embarrassed by the ghost of Sean’s mythical father
Jardin du Luxembourg
Poor Paul Getty
Devil You Know
Moth to a Flame
The World Was Made For Men
an old school New York feel
oedipal vulnerable and blue collar visceral
An emotional song with Miya’s acrobatic and vulnerable vocals
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – May 1973 (Volume 4, Number 12)
From Robert Johnson to the Ramones – what a life!
one of the great top tens of the 2020
will mark their return to the road in early February, 2023 with a string of to-be-announced US arena dates
enjoyable and soulful romp
another full day of music
his weakest album to date
hoedown, snappy , country slappy