Live performances by the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band are undoubtedly rare, so last night was bound to be special. And when I walked into Bowery Ballroom to see a projection screen displaying clips of various bare asses, soundtracked by bird calls, my suspicions were confirmed. My initial confusion at the scene immediately turned into apathetic acceptance that this was merely a part of the show. Ten minutes after the doors opened, an eager crowd swarmed the venue, with many attempting to push to the front only to be denied access by diehard fans, myself included. But whether you were standing directly in front of the stage or in the back of the venue, it was impossible not to be enamored by the happenings on the projection screen.
Among the hour long pre-show entertainment were narrated poems with titles like “Tuna Fish Sandwich Piece,” footage of Yoko’s performance pieces from the ’70s in which her clothes are cut up and she’s wrapped in gauze like a mummy, and an explanation of the aforementioned gluteus maximus footage, which was culled from her 1966 Film No. 4 (Bottoms) featuring 365 15-second clips of bare bottoms.
The pre-show was an engaging experience, meant to strike a reaction from the audience. And as hard as it was to steer your eyes away from the butts and the stage, it was even harder once Ono stepped out. At 80-years-old, Ono is still able to command an immense stage presence, despite her small stature. Her energetic demeanor matched her vocal vigor, and even her dance moves. As she sang through crowd favorite, Waiting For The D Train, a euphoria drifted through Bowery Ballroom as the eclectic crowd of both new and seasoned fans sang and danced along.
The Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band are tight, in every sense of the word. Their jams were mind-bending and on point throughout the night, despite the frequent, rapid band member rotations. And when the band wasn’t playing, the music was replaced by anecdotes from Yoko, reminiscing of past birthdays spent with her son Sean, and adorably discussing the differences in taste of various bottled water brands. But of course, the one message on repeat throughout Yoko Ono’s performance was simple: “Stop the violence.”