Friday, June 26, 2009

John Lennon 12: Live In New York City

Back before he completely lost his mind, Geraldo Rivera was a TV journalist who initially made his name exposing bad behavior a la 60 Minutes. Following an exposé on the living conditions at a home for the mentally ill, he convinced John and Yoko to stage a benefit concert in the summer of 1972, which they did. In the end, two shows were staged.
Nearly fourteen years later, an album of the event finally got an official release. It had been a TV special a decade earlier, and would occasionally show up on the radio; plus being John’s only full length solo concert performance outside of Toronto, what became Live In New York City had certainly gained stature. Yoko was nice enough to take out all of her songs for the LP version (yet left some in for the concurrent VHS release); purists still cried foul over the remixing, sequencing and choice of performances.
“Welcome to the rehearsal,” John says at one point, and rightfully so. The overall performance is rushed and sloppy; despite what anyone thought, Elephant’s Memory (fresh off the recording of Some Time In New York City) was simply not that good a band. Tex Gabriel was okay on the guitar, and saxophones are a matter of personal taste, but when Jim Keltner is onstage as the second drummer that should tell you something. Still, they took care of John’s needs at the time, and he didn’t have the patience to audition people like Paul did. (He also didn’t pretend to be democratic.) The fact that he showed up and rose above the other guys on stage makes up for the lackluster details. The most entertaining segments are the between-song comments—especially “Someone shouted ‘Ringo!’ That was last year” and “Here’s another song I wrote after I left the Rolling Stones”. “Imagine” and “Instant Karma” at the piano make for cool listening, and “Hound Dog” is thrown in to show off his roots. The last track is a minute’s worth of “Give Peace A Chance”, different from the one on Shaved Fish but just as much of an afterthought.
Live In New York City doesn’t have the raw energy of Live Peace In Toronto or the giddiness of his appearance with Elton John in 1974, but as a historical document it’s still essential — assuming you can find it, as it’s out of print now — and that’s where it gets its points. It was a pleasant surprise to be getting more authorized visits into the archives, and we no idea where it would go from here.

John Lennon Live In New York City (1986)—
Current CD availability: none

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