28 March, 2010

SWEET TORONTO – John Lennon (1969/1988)

Sometimes, whatever you imagine is better than the real thing. When I first heard the Live Peace in Toronto album, I was amazed by it. The film of the same show leaves me flat though.

The Plastic Ono Band (this time consisting of John and Yoko, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and Alan White) made their debut at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival in 1969. Although the rock credentials of both Lennon and Clapton were well established by then, they were still an odd choice to close a festival that also had Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard on the bill. It's sobering to think that only a decade past their heyday, these legends were already on the nostalgia circuit.

For context, Sweet Toronto gives one song each from the other acts on the bill. The Plastic Ono Band's set keeps the spirit of the show in the beginning, with three old rockers before throwing in Yer Blues and the premiere of Cold Turkey. History records that Yoko's contribution was surprisingly well received by the rock and roll crowd but the film suggests that by then, half of them had gone home or were too stoned to care. John, Eric and Klaus do set up an impressive feedback chord, but by the time they get there, you've lost interest and there are times during Yoko's wailing that even John looks bored.

Although he did his best with what he had available to him, D.A Pennebaker's documentarian style is not flattering to a concert. Most of the footage is shot from the wings or the foot of the stage, giving a fan's eye view of the show. Sweet Toronto is interesting more as an historical document than as a concert film.

The film is 'introduced' with a short and barely relevant interview with Yoko at the opening of an exhibition of John's art in 1988. The audio is 5.1, upmixed from the original stereo.

Highlight: Yer Blues
Feature: * *  ½
Extras: *
Audio: Dolby 5.1

Also released as Live Peace in Toronto and Live in Toronto '69.

Previously posted at Strawberry Fields and at Fishpond.

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