Considering he’s been a famous New Yorker since birth, you’d figure Sean Lennon would get gigs at New York’s top concert venues. But, in fact, tonight marks the first time John and Yoko’s son will headline medium-size Irving Plaza (or should we say Fillmore New York?). He’s pretty psyched, even if it means playing for a crowd of old friends who’ve been witness to Lennon’s personal soap opera, so he’s focused on putting on a good show. We spoke to him about it — and his mom and the state of the record business — last week.
So you’re playing Bowery. Is it something that you’ve always wanted to do?
I’m actually playing Irving Plaza.
Wishful thinking, I guess.
Well, I did Bowery last time! Uh, it definitely feels kind of exciting to headline a place. I’ve played there opening for other people before, but I’ve always wanted to headline Irving Plaza because it just kind of felt like a certain milestone. It’s a big deal. I’m really excited about it.
But Irving has a kind of disappointing ambience.
Well, the vibe isn’t as good, but the sound system is great, that’s why I wanted to play there.
Are you going to be doing anything special for the Irving show, given that it’s in New York?
Well, I mean, I always get more nervous when I’m in New York, just because all my friends are there. So I’m just going to focus on doing a great show, because, you know, a lot of times your best shows are kind of, like, sort of in the middle of nowhere, because there’s like no pressure.
And there’s nobody to hear it.
No, people are there — but I mean, people that you don’t know and that you didn’t grow up with, you know? Then the New York shows can turn out to be a bit difficult, so I’m just going to try to apply my experiences in the past and just not get hung up on the fact that I’m playing for all my friends.
How’s the reception to the tour been?
Really rewarding. I’ve played all these towns in America, like before, and not sold out, you know, and now all the shows are selling out, you know, and so it really feels good. It feels like I’m getting somewhere, and my fan base is kind of evolving in a nice way.
Have you had a bad reception anywhere from crowds or the press?
I haven’t had a bad reception from the crowd since I was opening for the Butthole Surfers, in like the nineties and we’d go out there and there’d be a bunch of really hard-core 15-year-old boys giving us the finger and, like, yelling and screaming. And then there was that time I opened for this German death metal band in France and I had all these skinheads throwing beer bottles at my head. But those days are kind of over, because now I pretty much tend to headline my own shows, so the people who come tend to be people who want to see me play — they don’t come and attack me, or anything. I don’t think they would bother buying the ticket if they didn’t like me.
Your mom has a tribute album out now. Are you competing for record sales?
Not exactly. My records don’t really sell, so there’s no competition.
Are you disillusioned with the record business?
Well, I was disillusioned with the process of putting out records and promoting them when I was younger. To me it just felt really undignified to promote one’s self like one promotes a toaster or a car, you know? It felt weird. I think it still feels weird. But, basically, the record industry has collapsed, so I can’t be disillusioned with something that doesn’t exist.
What’s in your backstage rider for the Irving show?
Technically I don’t have a rider. I just ask for a little money from the venue so that I can go out and buy watermelons and hummus. It just seems easier to buy my own food.