Noise Pop Show Review: The Ghost Of A Saber Toothed Tiger, If By Yes, Consortium Musicum at The Independent, 2/24/10

by Dakin Hardwick on February 25, 2010

This show was, to some degree, the after party for the big  YOKO ONO PLASTIC ONO BAND on Tuesday night. It was just quite a bit later, but every member of the Plastic Ono Band was onstage, aside from the very famous lead singer. In fact, only one person appeared on stage tonight that didn’t appear at the previous evening’s show. It also consisted almost entirely of music that isn’t yet available in recorded form, which helped even out the familiarity playing field, but based on the turnout, it had little effect on ticket sales. It was a rare show that all in attendance came based on the reputations of the performers. Of course, when you have the son of a Beatle, leaders of two of the most innovative and influential acts ever to come out of japan, and the go-to girl for session violin of the alternative rock era, you’ve got a pretty set to work from.

The show opened with a set by Consortium Musicum, which Greg Saunier of Deerhoof on drums and Sean Lennon on guitar and keyboards. They did a really great set of improvisational noise, totally self indulgent and a lot of fun. It sounded like a two-man, instrumental My Bloody Valentine meet Black Sabbath in all of the right ways. It was thunderous and loud and short. I would worry that they might lose their impact if they tried to become a more traditional band, but this was good.

The next act was the band If By Yes, which is primarily a collaboration between Petra Haden of That Dog and Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto. The live set was filled out by members of Cornelius and Sean Lennon, much like PLASTIC ONO BAND and Ghost Of A Saber Toothed Tiger. Their sound was much more related to Cibo Matto than it was That Dog, lacking the pop-punk punch of the later band, but chock full of jazzy, pleasant pop goodness of the former.

Haden’s voice was in near perfect form at this show, singing with the kind of range that would make Mariah Carey envious, without ever actually sounding like she was over singing. I truly believe that I could listen to her sing the phone book and not be bored. The rest of the band was primarily there to support her great vocal gift, with everybody providing an atmospheric groove. At times things bordered on chill-out compilation territory, but the material was so strong and the performance so focused that you never actually felt like you were at a dinner party in 1997.

Things got a bit more explosive at the end of the set, when Keigo Oyamada of Cornelius pulled out a violin bow, cranked up the distortion, and the band went in to full-throttle avant-rock mode. Haden, whose vocals had been very beautiful and crisp up to this point, was suddenly wailing like a banshee, and all of this turned in to an Ono-inspired bit of rock n roll craziness.

After a very brief set change, which is pretty much expected when there is no changing of the instruments, the entire band came out again, only Haden was replaced by Lennon’s supermodel girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl. The sound of this project was distinctly different from all of the different projects that came before it. They were incredibly tight, 3 1/2 minute pop songs. Lennon’s voice was so close to his fathers distinctive nasally warmth that it was frightening. Muhl primarily handled harmony vocals and played a little bass, and despite her day job, handled her self quite nicely on the stage. The two had the kind of chemistry that you only see on stage with a happy, loving couple. They were very jokey with each other, and spent most of the set looking at one another. To paraphrase father Lennon, it was “real love.”

As I said before, very little of this music had been released aside from a short compilation from Lennon’s record label, Chimera Music, so all of this material was unfamiliar to the crowd. The amazing thing about Lennon’s gift for melody and arrangement is that nothing felt unfamiliar. All of the songs had a decidedly 60’s pop feel with hints of psychedelia, but rarely actually sounded like he was going for a Beatles-esque sound. The male/female vocals were tight and beautiful, and the bulk of the songs were warm, yet dark.

Here’s a break down of the set, and a few thoughts about each song:

(Note, their was no written set list. Lennon & Muhl alternated song choices throughout the set)

Jardin To Luxembourg and Rainbows: These were the two opening songs, and they both reminded me a bit of The Bangles, with their 60’s-inspired harmonies mixed with a touch of old fashioned power pop.

India: Probably the only specific Beatlesy song. A concise bit of pop rock with middle easter over-tones. I pretty wicked electric sitar part, too!

Song For James: A cute song telling the tale of a guy that is stalking a girl at a clothing store because he believes that they are in love.

The New Veil Ghost: Darkest song of the set, with a little bit of a middle eastern drone to it.

Beautiful Girls: My personal favorite song of the set. A retelling of the Wizard Of Oz story that changed keys and time signatures several times over. There are so many possible ways this could have gone wrong, but when you take those risks and get them right, the pay off is amazing!

Untitled Instrumental: Classic 60’s Deep Purple hard rock.


World Is Made For Men: This songs is streaming on their website, but not in the arrangement we got. This was stripped down to just Muhl & Lennon with a single acoustic guitar. A very delicate song, performed with great care.

In a nutshell, it was another brilliant show led by an under-appreciated heir to the Beatles throne.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Keane September 9, 2010 at 1:59 am

Interviewing Sean and Charlotte tomorrow for Performer. Was just reading up about them some more and happened upon your post. Great review!


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