Double Fantasy Live – Royal Festival Hall

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Why This Gig?

Because I’m a child of the 60s. Because I can still remember exactly what I was doing when I heard that John Lennon was dead. Because it’s never been done before and it will be an experience.

But not, strangely, because I love Double Fantasy. It’s not actually an album I know very well. I started listening to it recently (in preparation for this show) and was surprised to realise that there are only four tracks on it that I really know.

Support

This is getting to be a bit of a trend. No support again tonight.

Headline

The advance publicity for the show only said that there would be “guest vocalists”. On arrival, we were given a sheet of paper telling us who they would be. And it wouldn’t have been too hard to guess who they were – it was basically a list of people who have been playing at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown over the previous ten days.

The album is played through in order. The evening starts with a singer I don’t recognise (it turns out he’s called Pete Molinari) and he does a great Lennon impression on “(Just Like) Starting Over”. He returns later for “Woman”. These are probably the two performances I enjoy the most during the show.

Half of Double Fantasy is Yoko Ono songs. But she doesn’t sing any of them herself. She has invited a string of women to impersonate her. We get Peaches, Lena Lovich, Camille O’Sullivan and Bishi. They all do a good job on what is (let’s be honest here) the weakest material on the album.

The men have stronger material to work with. Boy George seems slightly ill at ease singing “Cleanup Time”. “Beautiful Boy” is Patti Smith in the only example of a woman singing one of Lennon’s songs [Update: I’m wrong here. In the comments Carol points out that Camille O’Sullivan sang Lennon’s “I’m Losing You” – shows how well I know the album!] and “Watching the Wheels” is a good effort by Patrick Wolf.

One song on the album, “Dear Yoko”, is so personal that it would have seemed slightly weird for anyone else to sing it. Yoko gets round this by showing an old home movie of Lennon singing it to her. It’s a nice touch.

The final song of the album is “Hard Times are Over”. It’s a song that has grown on me a lot since I’ve been listening to the album. I don’t recognise the singer, but he does a great version. I later find out that he is called Andrew Wyatt.

So, by about 9:15pm the album is finished. The usual approach for these “play an whole album” gigs is for the band to take a break at this point and then return to play a greatest hits set. It looks like this is going to happen when Camille O’Sullivan comes on and sings a song (one that I don’t recognise) unaccompanied. Then we get Boy George and Bishi with another unknown number. I assume that these are both Yoko Ono songs. And then, Siouxsie and Yoko are on stage singing “Walking on Thin Ice”.

And then it’s finished. The expected greatest hits set was three obscure songs. It’s 9:40pm and it’s time to go home. A slightly downbeat end to the evening – and, indeed, to Yoko’s Meltdown festival.

I’m glad I was there. And I’m not really sure what else I was expecting. But it all felt slightly unsatisfactory.

Here’s the setlist from Setlist.fm.

Reviews

1 thought on “Double Fantasy Live – Royal Festival Hall”

  1. Just to pick you up on a mistake – Camille O’Sullivan sang John’s I’m Losing You – I thought it was the performance of the night. Generally I thought the women really went for it whereas the men were rather more restrained – possibly it was inevitable that they would show more reverence. It wasn’t wholly successful but still an interesting and eclectic mash up of an album that will always have an emotional pull over me (well, half of it).

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