The age of the Meltdown is now... and it's all a bit drear thanks to the veteran jazz blower Ornette Coleman being the curator this year. However it is going to afford a gawp at a couple of legendary female trailblazers... Patti Smith and first off the rank, Miss Yoko Ono. When Owen first suggested going I was a bit hesitant - he's a fan but I can't say she wobbles my jelly. However the thought of her doing WALKING ON THIN ICE had me thinking again. Needless to say the contrary mare didn't do it. But an intriguing evening was had...
She started suitably late - which had me wondering whether we were all part of a big art installation - Audience Staring At A Stage - but the Plastic Ono Band du jour appeared, followed by the legend herself in a neat little black trouser suit, shades and an enormous white cap that Andy Capp would have given his fagbutt for. It was the first London concert for The Plastic Ono Band in 40 years.
First off was her composition called "Why".
The lyrics were dead easy to remember.
There she was in all her howling Banshee selfness. I had to laugh when about halfway through the number she took a slug of water... and went back at it with added volume!
"Oh my days" I thought "It's not all going to be like this surely - and me with the beginning of one of my 'heads' too".So just as I was getting reconciled to an evening of staring into the middle distance and blocking up my ears... she played one I knew! "Open Your Box" was on the b-side to my 7" of "Power To The People" and I always liked it, I suspect 'cos I thought it was filthy. It turns out I wasn't the only one as afterwards she said it was nice to play that as it was banned in the USA at the time.
After that I relaxed a bit and started enjoying it. Yes, enjoyed Yoko Ono.
The band sounded ferosh under her musical director, some bloke called Sean Lennon and with a special guest bassist, some other bloke called Mark Ronson. There was a delightful interplay between mother and son on stage, Sean saying that he and Mark Ronson had grown up only a block apart in New York to which Yoko interected "Yes they, um, were cute babies" and later, when saying he had written the next song for her when he started a band at 17, as he beamed behind her she quickly added "He was a very arrogant 17 year old"!
She played a mixture of old and new tracks - some I would be more interested in hearing again than others - and we even got her film FLY from 1970 projected. 25 minutes of a fly crawling over a naked woman... I was verklempt.
However I have saved the best til last... another special guest was Antony from Antony & The Johnsons.
The sight of 6'24" Antony standing next to 3'2" Yoko was worth the price of admission alone and the thought of the two of them singing together was enough to cause panic in cat homes across London - but the two songs they duetted on - "Toyboat" and "I'm Going Away Smiling" - were hold-your-breath stunning.
Yoko said at the end that she had been nervous about playing as the Plastic Ono Band had been booed all through their show 40 years ago and also because a reporter had asked her about the love/hate relationship she had with Britain to which she replied "To me it's always been a love relationship". Her words were greeted by a huge heartfelt ovation and her final song "The Sun Is Down" featured her flashing a torch into the audience, playing the Onochord - a sequence of 1,2,3 flashes which means "I Love You" - luckily we had all been handed little pocket torches to flash back - which made the darkened Festival Hall auditorium glitter like a goldmine.
Totally mad, quite magical.