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Yoko Ono and Plastic Ono Band - Orpheum Theater 10/1/10

Photo by Elise Thompson/LAist
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Ever since her Fluxus days, Yoko Ono’s art has often revolved around the challenging of her audience’s assumptions, specifically about the nature of art, social mores, gender roles, and the nature of celebrity. The live show she brought to the Orpheum last weekend continued this tradition, bringing together a collective of first-rate musicians and famous guests for a show that held enormous emotional impact. It was a surprisingly diverse (where else are you gonna get RZA, Iggy, Vincent Gallo and Carrie Fisher on the same bill?) and even accessible package for a woman whose music is often thought of as difficult and anti-rock.

But anyone expecting a Yoko show to be two hours of oi-yoi-yoi-yoi warbling hasn't heard her records, especially the new one, Between My Head And The Sky, which made up a good part of the set list. We heard a lot of different kinds of music, some of it simple, gentle and lovely. Some of it was tense and funky, some of it joyous and rocked-out. And, yes, some of it was dissonant, and she did break out the oi-yoi-yoi every so often. But the most discordant moments added texture, some of them loud and powerful, some quiet and fragile.

She's looking awfully potent at seventy-seven, singing with a lot of energy, dancing sweetly and showing real command of the stage. For someone who didn't do a lot of live performing, and seems stilted and uncomfortable in footage from the seventies, she's become a real pro at it late in life. The updated Plastic Ono Band is musical-directed by son Sean Ono Lennon, who alternates between bass, guitar and keyboard. Besides local hero Nels Cline on guitar - as usual, playing just impossibly well - the new group is made up of younger Asians; Cornelius, Yuka Honda, and Haroumi Hasonno are the ones listed in the program but at least two others were seen.