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Lennon: Through a Glass Onion
John Lennon, who would have turned 74 on October 9, was shot to death in 1980 on a New York street. It was one of those murders that made the world stop. The Beatles had broken up even before Lennon's death, but their music continues to weave into the tapestry of our lives. Tribute shows regularly draw audiences trying to relive the magic years when Beatlemania ruled the airwaves.
Thirty-four years after the Lennon's death another tribute, Lennon: Through a Glass Onion , opens at the Union Street Theater. Created by guitarist/singer John R. Waters with pianist Stewart D'Arrietta, it opened in 1992 on a small stage at the Tilbury Hotel in Sydney and has toured Australia and London. Waters' aim is to portray the many sides of John Lennon through a monologue interspersed with songs. "Oddly enough for someone so ironically famous, there are a lot of obscurities about John Lennon," he says.
Waters brings out Lennon's dry wit, self-deprecation, sense of isolation, love for Yoko Ono and respect for Paul McCartney. Most of the included songs were written by Lennon or by Lennon with McCartney. He was first attracted to early rock 'n' roll ("Be-bop-a-loo-la, She's My Baby" was a favorite), but Bob Dylan became a great influence . Dylan was considered hip by the intellectuals, something Lennon admits he also wanted.
He realized his music had to expand its complexity. As he experimented with different styles, he found that listeners overanalyzed Beatles music for deeper meanings that were not there.
About "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" Lennon commented "Everybody's suddenly an instant expert on what you've just said. And most of the explains His feelings about overanalyzing is also explained in the so "Glass Onion," (from the 1968 White Album ) that became part of this show's title.
Throughout the evening, always lurking behind the stories and music, is the murder, with D'Arrietta signaling the chill of impending doom with melancholy chords of Lennon's "Isolation."
Now comes this show's downside. John Lennon was a fascinating man with an arresting story that would be better appreciated if we could understand the words more clearly. The strong Liverpool accent assumed by Waters is authentic for Lennon but much of the meaning is lost through pronunciation. While the familiar songs remain powerful, I, for one, missed too much in Waters' stories behind the songs and the man. Perhaps Waters sensed a disappointment in this preview audience because he and D'Arrietta did not include the usual encore. The last song was "Imagine" and then good-night.
While there are 31 songs well represented by just piano, guitar and vocals, only some are sung completely. These, however, Waters delivers with authenticity and a hint of Lennon in the vocal tone. He presents a touching rendition of "Beautiful Boy" for Sean, the baby John and Yoko thought they could never have. A tribute to Lennon's mother, "Julia" is especially poignant and "Jealous Guy," written during a separation from Yoko, rings true.
D'Arietta ( Belly of a Drunken Piano ) is a powerful pianist with strong beats for a honky-tonk, "Working Class Hero," a bluesy "Revolution" and backing the ballads with sensitivity. Adam Burbury provides compelling sound effects. Lighting by Anthony "Bazz" Barrett lends creative touches of a psychedelic feel for "Lucy In the Sky" abd sometimes a soft tint on the backdrop or totally blacking out all but a stark light on Waters' head.
In the end the real tribute is John Lennon's own words. "The only thing nobody can touch is music. So if you want John, Paul, George and Ringo, get the records out and put them on. That's what they're there for."