The Hollywood Reporter

16 August 1999

Special Thanks to Jeann!

Photograph Smile

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Concert Review: Julian Lennon House of Blues, West Hollywood Thursday, Aug 12 By John Lappen

The hype calls him "rock's most famous son." Far more significantly Julian Lennon is a talented singer-songwriter-musician with a voice, vision and attitude all his own-genes be damned. 

Touring the United States for the first time in eight years, the hiatus seems well spent in regard to his songwriting. His new Fuel 2000 album, "Photograph Smile," has been receiving rave reviews for its confessional style, warm melodies and shimmering pop structures. He gave the capacity crowd at the House of Blues all of that and more during his revealing, at times emotional 90-minute performance. Toward the end of his set, Lennon admitted that "I was petrified tonight, but you really made me feel at home" before launching into the night's last song, an appropriate cover of "Stand by Me." But by that time, the audience had bonded with Lennon in a way that would have touched any performer. Throughout the evening, Lennon repeatedly thanked the crowded house for coming to see him: those in attendance could see that this was one performer who was eschewing the usual banal stage chatter, Lennon meant it. Musically, he leads a crack five-piece that is heavy on the guitar side, particularly when Lennon strums away on his acoustic. Opening and closing with a punchier, rockier sound, the middle portion of the set was heavy on midtempo ballads and from-the-heart pop whose lyrics examine the love, trust and loss that have occurred in Lennon's life over the years. While lesser songwriters would tackle such topics with their share of whining and defensiveness, Lennon strips his feelings down to an emotional core that is affecting even to listeners who haven't been there to share his ups and downs. This was particularly true on the title track from the new record, a stark ballad about a lost love. When, after its conclusion, a choked-up Lennon remarked that "this one is always a toughie for me to get through," the affected throng roared its approval and concern. The talkative Lennon shared freely his opinions on a wide range of topics, including critics, his dad, his music and the Fabs; it was in intimate look into the muse of a talented soul who seems at peace with himself these days. Capitol Records act the Push Stars opened with a set of infectious contemporary pop that earned an enthusiastic crowd reception.