John Lennon changed the world with more than just his music. His 1969 Bed-In peace demonstrations with wife Yoko Ono were one way in which he used his notoriety to work towards social change and the principle of universal peace. I find it appropriate that a concert originally planned to celebrate his musical accomplishments, Come Together: A Night For John Lennon's Words & Music, became a fundraiser a short three weeks after September 11, 2001. The event, which took over a year to put together, was dedicated to "New York City and its people" and the charity it helped is the Robin Hood Foundation which includes a 9/11 relief fund.
This tribute took place on October 2, 2001 at the Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan and was aired simultaneously on broadcast and cable television. Now, it’s available on home DVD and includes all the musical performances as well as introductions to each song by various actors. Host Kevin Spacey took on double duties as he also performed Lennon’s "Mind Games".
The format for the show was well thought out. First there's a short film about Lennon that incorporated still photographs and film clips of his life. If you have watched any documentaries about the life of John Lennon and his impact on the world, there are many that you will have already seen. Next is an introduction of the upcoming song, tying Lennon’s views, the (still current at the time) events of 9/11 and the lyrics of the tune together. During each performance the theater’s backdrop was used to screen montages of both photos and video to further illuminate each message.
Let me elaborate. The concert starts with footage of John and Yoko, he at the white baby grand piano singing "Imagine." Vocalist Yolanda Adams and keyboardist Billy Preston pick up the song live. Then, before host Kevin Spacey comes on stage, there are clips of John talking about the lyrics to "Imagine" and singing "New York City." Enter Spacey. He tells the original concept of the concert, to honor John’s words and music and to fight the good fight for gun control and non-violence, and to help give peace a chance. He continues by saying that there is now a new mission, to honor loved ones taken from us and to raise funds for those whose lives have been so brutally changed. He quotes lyrics from "In My Life" and "Working Class Hero" and goes on to say that during the show they would "celebrate this great man and great city and the undying spirit they both share." Singer/songwriter Dave Matthews plays acoustic guitar and performs "In My Life" as a pictorial montage of Lennon, from short pants to right before his death, is screened in the background.
Put all of that together and it's a powerful, compelling video. The DVD starts that way and keeps going for the entire length. I'm telling you this so that you know from the start that it's not a breezy trip down memory lane. You might want to have a hankie at hand. I did.
I’m torn now. Do I tell you about the rest of the DVD in detail or should I highlight some of the performances? It’s a tough call, I will say that. I certainly took enough notes that I could give you a thorough description of nearly each and every one of the ninety minutes, daunting task as that might be. Yet, I hate to give anyone short shrift by not mentioning all the players involved.
The result of my coin toss is to list the speakers and artists in order of appearance:
- Yolanda Adams/Billy Preston – "Imagine"
- Kevin Spacey – Host/Opening Remarks
- Dave Matthews – "In My Life"
- Ben Stiller – Speaker
- Stone Temple Pilots -"Revolution"
- Dustin Hoffman – Speaker
- Alanis Morissette – "Dear Prudence"
- Tim Roth – Speaker
- Moby/Sean Lennon/Rufus Wainwright – "Across The Universe"
- Cyndi Lauper Speaker/Performer – "Strawberry Fields Forever"
- James Gandolfini/Edie Falco – Speakers
- Marc Anthony – "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"
- Kevin Bacon – Speaker
- Shelby Lynne – "Mother"
- Leelee Sobieski – Speaker
- Nelly Furtado/Dave Stewart – "Instant Karma"
- Steve Buscemi – Speaker
- Lou Reed – "Jealous Guy"
- Benjamin Bratt – Speaker
- Natalie Merchant – "Nowhere Man"
- Kevin Spacey – Speaker/Performer "Mind Games"
- Craig David – "Come Together"
- Sean Lennon/Rufus Wainwright – "This Boy"
- Sean Lennon – "Julia"
- Yoko Ono Lennon – Closing Remarks
- Shaggy/Ensemble – "Give Peace A Chance"
- Ensemble/Various Leads – "Power To The People"
I thought that everyone gave their best that night in highlighting John Lennon’s words and music..adding their own special talents to bring life to his art. Some performers, like Marc Anthony and Craig David, surprised me with the passion they showed. Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) also played guitar in the back-up band and was the night’s musical director on top of his performance with Ms. Furtado. As for the rest of the scoop, I hope that you’ll pick this DVD up for yourself and see where it takes you. Proceeds will continue to fund The Robin Hood Foundation, which is another plus.
Special thanks: A tip ‘o the hat to Eagle Rock Entertainment, Ltd. on their green packaging of this DVD. They used recycled paperboard, post- and pre-consumer fiber, renewable vegetable inks with a water-based covering, and the disc tray is made of post-consumer RPET which can be recycled.Powered by Sidelines