The Washington Post

(Page C-4) July 28th, 1999

Special Thanks to Bill!

Photograph Smile

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Julian Lennon, Back on Track

By Patrick Foster

If there has ever been an artist who could be classified as a recovering songwriter, it's Julian Lennon. At the Birchmere Monday night, he looked and sounded as if he may have broken free of the burdens of being John's firstborn--and of a career that very nearly fizzled out.

Playing many songs from his comeback record, "Photograph Smile," including "I Should Have Known" and "Crucified" (which he evidently feels he was by some music biz types), plus classics like "Get a Life" and "Make It Up to You," Lennon has purged those demons and declared the slate clean. He closed the set with his early hit "Too Late for Goodbyes," but even it, he declared, was "updated for the '90s."

Backed by a capable quintet that bounced between '80s power pop (remember the Hooters?) and what can only be called Beatlesque flourishes (though he clearly favors Paul McCartney's style), Lennon delighted the large, reverent crowd. Confident with his new material, he leaned into each vocal and occasionally lifted the songs above their routine musical settings.

Seeming at last comfortable with himself and the fact that no one expects him to write something on par with "Strawberry Fields Forever" every time out (that's brother Sean's burden now), this first tour in seven years might be the crucial step in Lennon's journey toward artistic stability. Besides, it seemed the fans at the Birchmere wouldn't care if he dropped his last name altogether.