The continued damning of Yoko Ono

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 12:33 11/07/2014

This week I kept getting sent the clip of Yoko Ono at Glastonbury - the internet declared it the worst live performance ever. A pang of disappointment there, I was sure the various Fat Freddy's Drop, Six60, Foo Fighters, White Stripes and Lana Del Rey fans with a friend that can read to them had already decided I had that sewn up; me and my pots and pans.

Actually the real pang of disappointment was in so many sites sharing the story - so many thoughtless goons adding their casual racism, throwing out non-sequiturs, getting the name of her band wrong, forgetting - or never knowing - what Yoko Ono did/does in the first place. And announcing, on behalf of John Lennon, that he would have been upset at the effort, or apparent lack of any effort.Yoko Ono

I'm not here to tell you that the Yoko clip is the world's best live performance. But hearing from people who have, most likely, a) never heard any of her albums and are b) still blaming her (although now you'd have to say it's more a case of flaming her) for the breakup of The Beatles because their father, in his casually racist way, has been blaming Yoko for the breakup of The Beatles ever since he listened to the loudest of his beer-swilling friends who had read half of an unauthorised Beatles bio that one time he had a particularly stubborn dump, doesn't offer anything, any worthy comment on this clip.

Yoko Ono released a wonderful record last year, another in a career of constantly interesting material. And yet people who have never listened to it are allowed to write it off as noise and mess because they've spent no time listening but prefer a really deep artist like Ben Harper?

Of course it's fine to not like Yoko Ono but some understanding is required surely. Third-rate hack bloggers (hey, we smell our own) couldn't even spot that she was playing with Yo La Tengo - most of the sites pushing this clip for clicks simply called it Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band, one site even referenced the fact that Yo La Tengo had tweeted about the clip but didn't seem to make the connection that there was a vested interest. They simply saw the Yo La Tengo tweet as support from a "legendary indie band", never bothering to connect the dots. Actually they probably saw the inclusion of a Yo La Tengo tweet as further proof that their site has some cool indie cred; doesn't work when you can't spot the tweeters in real life though, surely.

John Lennon might have loved the performance but why we care about his thoughts over 30 years on from his death is frankly ridiculous. It is fair to assume though that the same things that attracted him to Yoko - which in part was her unique voice and approach to her art and music, no cookie-cutter stuff there - might well still be in place if, er, Lennon was still in place. Well, there, you see how futile it is to speculate. The tone of the pieces trying to take down this snippet of a performance seem to suggest that Yoko was not really sounding like The Beatles, or music becoming of a wife of a Beatle - and that this is some kind of shock.

It's hard to take the criticisms seriously when they come from people who have not done the listening.

It's like when last year a person told me I'd steered them wrong, they'd taken my tip and decided to check out Aussie band, The Drones (I'd gushed about the group several times online). The report back from this person was that it was just another Aussie band that sounded like Powderfinger. Hard to take that seriously now isn't it? I mean, by all means you don't have to like anything that's recommended - and clearly The Drones were not for everyone, as there was hardly anyone at the gig in Wellington last year (such a shame). But comparing them to Powderfinger is a shortcut to thinking. It's like expecting Yoko to in any way not make music that sounds like Yoko Ono.

Here's the full song, Yoko Ono playing Don't Worry, Kyoko (at Glastonbury).

I like it. She's in fine voice - this is after all what she does. This is how she's always sounded. It's improvisation too - that's presumably, worth noting. And that's a pretty kick-ass groove that Yo La Tengo has struck up there in support.

Considering this the worst live performance - you can just tell the people writing these pieces and eagerly typing in their "go home" and "rubbish" comments haven't seen or heard a lot of music. They've lapped up all the landfill indie perhaps, bought and listened to every album by a small handful of bands - but they haven't listened to anything outside the box where they keep music.

It's been part of my job for the last decade and a half nearly to regularly see - and write about - the worst performances in the world. A few good ones slipping in and around too. You have to be careful, they sneak in when you least expect it (it's what keeps you in the job). And I wish I could see Yoko Ono improvising on a stage with Yo La Tengo. If I could see that without slumming it down in the mud at Glastonbury that would be even better, naturally.

But how sad that this video has attracted more views than any other performance at Glasto - sad because people are being directed to the clip to hate; being sent there - with no real references outside of what they've just been told ("What John Lennon Saw Next Made Him Dip His Head In Shame" - how can the writers of these words not feel any sadness, they're masquerading at a craft in much the same way they're so sure Yoko is).

Oh and I'm the bitter one. The negative one. The angry one. Not these thugs with no clue about music unless it has an accompanying MTV-approved video.

Did you get sent this clip multiple times this week too? And do you agree it's music's worst ever performance? Or did it whet your appetite to check out a little more from Yoko Ono? 

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