Yoko Ono

yoko ono at arthurfest


Written by Mikihiko Hori (September 2005)

I had never been to LA in my entire life and ended up traveling all the way from DC and staying in LA only for a couple of days. Since I have had traveled back to Japan just to see Yoko's '95 "Memorial concert" in Hiroshima all the way from US, this wasn't bad at all. Anyway, LA was sooo hot on Labor day. I arrived Barnsdall art park around 12:30PM and the park itself was located high up on the hill, through which you could see a beautiful scenery of LA including the Hollywood sign. Inside the park a few stages had been set up and all these cutting-edge bands were supposed to be playing their music on each stage. When I got the main stage, I found out that Yoko's show was supposed to be starting at 9:00PM(!). But Sean and his band members were already there rehearsing on the stage. After listening to them playing for a while, they started rehearsing "Walking On Thin Ice", which sounded pretty cool. As to all these bands played on the stages that day, to be honest, I had never heard of them. But they were all pretty good bands and I had the impression that those bands were successors of previous alternative rock bands like Beastie Boys or Nirvana.

On the other hand, I met pretty cool people there too. I met this guy who was wearing the T-shirt of Yoko's Grapefruit, the one with a bottom sticking out from a grapefruit. I had a conversation with him and he said he saw a protest around the gate earlier, and several mid-20's girls were holding the placards saying "STOP YOKO NOW"!!!! What the fuck is that? He said that he did not even know why they bothered doing things like that (he showed me the picture he took with his cell phone) but he though it might have had something to do with a myth that Yoko broke up the Beatles....I don't know....I thought they might have been doing that because of Yoko's recent support of gay marriage. Again it is still unknown to me what they were protesting about bringing up Yoko's name. well, what the heck...make love, not war.

In the meantime, I was sitting up front of the stage since 1PM under the hot sun waiting for Yoko to come to the stage. The promoter guy told me that John & Yoko's movies will be shown after Juan Maclean and Spoon played as the program paper indicated but it did not happen. I was expecting to see excerpts of "Film No. 5: Smile" and "Apotheosis", though. Well, after the Spoon gig, around 8:30PM the movie screen came down in front of the stage. By this time the lawn in front of the stage was packed by all these people like several hundreds waiting for Yoko to perform. At first, "Film No. 5: Smile" was on the screen like for 15 minutes and then Yoko's "ONOCHORD documentary" was shown next. The audience reacted to Yoko's comments on this documentary film with laughter and cheering, and clapping hands when the film ended. Because the screen was there in front of the stage, not all of us could see what was going on back on the stage, however, I saw Yoko, Sean and the band members walking towards the stage from the wing. After the screen came up, in the midst of people's roaring, the promoter guy announced "Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band!!!!!"

However, no one was on the stage...at least no one was in sight...not Yoko, not Sean, not band members. The instrumental version of "You" from Yoko's "Fly" album started being heard as background music and at the same time this scream "Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah Woooooaaaaaaaaa" did burst out. That was of course Yoko but they must have been hiding behind another white screen hanging at the back of the stage. You could see the flashlights were being lit on the screen from behind and all of a sudden started seeing all these openings on the screen being slashed from the behind. Some band members faces were peeped through the openings and also Yoko's hands were exposed like a sea anemone. Through the entire slashing event, Yoko's "voice modulation" was constantly on. When the music ended, Yoko appeared to the center of the stage escorted by Sean with his guitar in his hand. No wonder Yoko needed Sean's little help because she was wearing a black hood on her face. And then she took off her hood from her head, and greeted the fans with smile giving a nice compliment that the park area of LA was beautiful. The audience responded with Yoko calling her name, clapping hands, and cheering.

The next song was "Rising" started off with her trademark screaming "Whoaaahahaaa". This version was very similar to the one on "Blueprint for a sunrise". Yoko was singing "You bound me / You bound me / You chained and blinded me / Blinded me guilty and robbed of my dignity / My tears are now the river / ....Way way way up into the universe / Where I can see you and love you for what you are.....Make your manifestation / No limitation / Have courage / Have rage / We are all together" and went on and on...and then interestingly Yoko incorporated the verses of "Warzone" singing "Hold you money / Hold your life / Hold your heart / It is a Warzone / Warzone" and fished the song back to "Rising!!! / We are all together!!!" The next tune was -- surprise, surprise -- "Why"!!! Man, this was sooooo cool, I never expected of being able to listen to this song live in my life!!!! Sean's guitar playing did really sound like John Lennon's guitar playing. Of course Yoko kept screaming and saying "Why / Why / Why / Why........Whoaaaaaaaaaaaaa". It was a very similar to the version on "Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band". Yoko was dancing to the tune. Amazing, amazing tune!!!!

Now, after the song, Yoko approached to Sean and seemed to have started some kind of argument, telling Sean some dissatisfaction about the playing or something....I could not hear what she was protesting to Sean...but of course this was not serious and it was rather theatrical like acting....actually, I have also witnessed similar scenes somewhere else like at the '96 Summerstage in NYC Central Park and the Tonic gig in NYC, '05....This is what I call "Discussion piece"...mimicking Yoko's Grapefruit piece like "Discuss in front of people (A) until one forgets what discussing about, (B) until everybody notices, (C) until they don't care" or whatever...

Anyway, Yoko came back to the center of the stage and the next tune she played was "I Want You To Remember Me A" exactly like the one on "Blueprint for a sunrise"....She played battered woman and her man arguing "I had to do it / I had to do it / There was no choice / I mustered my voice.." and moved into "I Want You To remember Me B" with a woman's mourning and agony and ended the song with "I Want You To Remember Me! / I Want You to Remember Me!"...

Then she launched her another "Rising" song "Will I". With the drum sticks sounding like a stopwatch...the lyric went like "Will I miss the sky / Will I miss the clouds / Will I miss the ocean / Will I miss the bay / Will I Miss the Sunrise / Will I miss the Moon / Will I miss the mountains / Will I miss the trees / Will I miss the city lights / Will I miss snow / Will I miss the laughter / Will I miss the jokes / Will I miss Spring / Will I miss love / Will I miss You / Will I / Will I"....

And then after that one of my favorite Yoko's songs came out. It was "Mind Train". Such a funky and punky song! Yoko's stuttered screaming was in prime in this song indeed..."dub dub train passed through my mind....I thought of killing that man" I always wanted to and have been wanting to ask Yoko about the lyric of this song.....why "33" windows? why "thought of killing that man"? I wanna know any hidden meaning of the lyric of this song if there is such.....I remember Sean singing background of this tune at the '96 NYC Central Park Summerstage singing "I thought of killing that fucking man!" ....and then at the end of the song Yoko kind of shrugged her shoulder, smiled and said something like "This is all about the song". So it was like Yoko saying it is just a train song... I never know...

After this song the audience started yelling to Yoko with their song demands like "Paper shoes!", "Walking On Thin Ice!", "Peter The Dealer!", "Kiss, Kiss, Kiss!", "Every man...Every Woman!!" It was amazing that all these people knew Yoko's old songs! Just fantastic...And the keyboard player on the stage shouted back "Two Minutes Silence!!!" lol....Yoko was smiley and seemed to be happy to hear that all these people knew her songs.

Then sure enough "Walking On Thin ice" intro started! Everybody went crazy but Yoko did not start this song as a usual way of course...Actually, she almost recited the whole lyric like poetry reading not singing.... started off "I am paying the price / For throwing the dice in the air........" Then turned into her screaming and surprisingly finished her part shouting out "You killed my man, you bastard!" I wonder who she was referring to.....Yoko started doing "ONOCHORD" with her little penlights and everybody in the audience followed..... I love you i ii iii.......when I looked back, it was like the stars were falling from the sky, hovering in the air, and blinking in front of my eyes......it was so beautiful...... Yoko blew kisses holding her hand high and left the stage while the band was still playing the tune...

Everybody was clapping hands and wanted more... I was enjoying such an ecstasy and then Yoko came back with the band....What Yoko said next really surprised me...she said this tune is "Don't Worry, Kyoko"(!!!!!!!!!!) And she also mentioned something like "I recorded this song in..." asking for Sean's help for the answer and Sean responded back "1972!!!" But Yoko and Sean, this tune was originally recorded as the B-side of "Cold Turkey" in '69 and on "Fly" on '71 so, well, close enough...Anyway, I never thought I could hear this tune live again!!! I can't imagine how many time I listened to "Don't worry". With the explosive guitar sounds Yoko started screaming "Don't worry / Don't Worry / Don't Worry / Don't Woryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Kyoooooooooooookooooooooooo!!!!!" Where is this? Toronto? Man, the tune lasted like for 10 minutes and everybody loved it!! When the song ended, In the middle of big applause and the "ONOCHORD" event, Yoko said "Who said I could not do it, right?" and then she added saying "I'll see you next year" and left the stage.

It was such a great gig and I will never forget as long as I live...After the stage, Yoko surrounded by her bodyguards left the site passing through the people.....The cameras' flashbulbs were following her and it was like a big light was walking through and disappeared in the dark...

I cannot over-emphasize how wonderful the evening was.


The setlist

You (From "Fly", sounded also like "The Paths" from Yes Yoko Ono CD)
Rising / Warzone
Why I Want You To Remember Me A
I Want You To Remember me B
Mind Train
Will I
Walking on Thin Ice
Don't Worry, Kyoko


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