Sean Lennon, Channeling A Sunnier, Warmer Pop

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Musical ability is nature, rock is nurture. Sean Lennon's brief and serene Sunday set at the Birchmere seemed to provide clues as to what his father, the Beatle John, might have been like had the elder Lennon also had two parents who loved him.

Fair or not, it's impossible not to compare the two. At 31, Sean looks so much like John. His raspy, cigarette-toughened voice sounds like Dad's, too. And, judging by the advanced age of those at the show, Sean, now touring behind his second solo disc ("Friendly Fire") and after a long run with Cibo Mato, still draws most of his crowd because of who he is, not what he's done.

But the younger offspring of history's edgiest pop star oozes only niceness and contentment. Whereas John sang that "happiness is a warm gun," for Sean happiness is warm artichoke dip: He touted the club's appetizer offerings with utter sincerity throughout the show. The father and son treat past lovers differently, too: Dad sang "I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man." During the sweet "On Again, Off Again," Sean offered, "If I can't hold you, somebody will."

The electric quartet now backing him helped Lennon flaunt his innate melodic gifts. Guitarist Cameron Greider's slow slide riffs highlighted the jam portion of the new "Spectacle," a tune with art-rock and psychedelic passages. (Greider, the son of political writer William Greider, played those licks on an Epiphone Casino, the licensed John Lennon model.) The night's only cover came with an extended version of "Would I Be the One," by Marc Bolan of T. Rex fame. Lennon left the stage after just eight songs, about 45 minutes. That's short by today's standards, but for those keeping score, it's longer than the Beatles' first Shea Stadium concert.

-- Dave McKenna

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company