It ducked and weaved, soared to the heights and fell to the troughs throughout the narrative most of us know so well. It cherry-picked from the array tuneful gems all of us also know so well – each selection being placed in a woven context that started at the end and then came back, ninety or so minutes later, to the bullets that rival those of Dallas as the final bows were taken. John Waters is stomping his ‘Looking Through the Glass Onion’ around the country for yet another time as a warm up to taking it to where it didn’t begin but tragically ended. Yes, he’s taking on NYC. And now I have seen it – one more item ticked off that vague bucket list of mine.
Waters does a fine interpretation of the man, with emphasis on ‘interpretation’. His take on John Lennon is no cheesy, cheerful nostalgic romp back into the past. Some of the gathered throng took it to be and tried to sing along with Waters, only to have it taken away from under them as he abruptly terminated proceedings before conclusion to return to a gritty, expletive punctuated monologue. The show throws around the order of songs as much as it does the events in Lennon’s life – and with such a catalogue to select from the choices are eclectic to fit the format. Don’t expect a Beatles ‘greatest hits’. He has the solo career to choose from too. The voice he uses is not a carbon copy of the original – it is Waters singing, not impersonating. Occasionally though, when the actor lets rip, as he does on ‘Mother’, the ‘primal bellow’ that Lennon could attain, the icon comes through. When this happens, well, they are sit up and take notice moments. This ultimate fan has serious chops. Then it could be Lennon up there.
The between-songs patter, delivered in high Merseyside ‘scouser’, was masterful – almost poetic. There was JL’s bent humour, his weary exhaustion at being a slave to fame and his rejection of being straight-jacketed. Being a role model for his generation was never going to happen – at least in a way the vested interests wished for. Waters covered it all – ‘Beatlemania’; growing up; mothers – or lack of them; ‘bagism’; PEACE; ‘bigger than Christ’; Yoko; sex; drugs and of course; glorious, glorious rock’n’roll. It’s the story of how four Liverpudlian lads made a genre of music pre-eminent and gave it the grunt for longevity They took its basic core and embellished it in a way that left their competitors floundering to keep up. They could never have the staying power of the Stones say, even had they all survived the times they lived in and the crazies out there. But they left behind something to transcend all that – and Lennon was always their wild-card.
Waters himself has graced our screens for decades now. He is a versatile trooper, resisting the ravages of time gamely. Now the patriarch of ‘Offspring’, those of us of long memory remember his days as the sexiest man on the small screen in ‘Rush’ and on ‘Play School’. It was a stark stage he played on last evening as this was a minimalist production. Musically it consisted of piano, kick-drum and single guitar – with a few well chosen sound effects for a tad of variation. Waters was dressed in the mode of the cover of Lennon’s album of rock covers. Lighting was used to simple effect at key points
At some stage this must come to an end. Waters is getting long in the tooth like the rest of us who were around when the ‘fab four’ were in their pomp, I count my luck at finally being able to view ‘Looking Through a Glass Onion’ before the final curtain is drawn. It was good to shake John Water’s hand after he graciously signed my programme.