The Birchmere 
Alexandria, VA
July 26th, 1999

Report by Bill R.

Photograph Smile

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Special Thanks to Bill for sending in his report! 

I arrived at the Birchmere with my wife, Stephanie, at 6:55 pm, 25 minutes after the doors opened (we got lost, we're from Maryland). Major mistake, most of the good seats were already gone, and since another couple, (Lisa and Pat) was joining us, we had to find four seats together. I did find some pretty good seats to the right of the stage and still reasonable close (although not close enough to check out which hand his ring is on). Seating at the Birchmere is at large tables, so we began talking to the other people at our table. They were there for the woman's birthday, said they were fans. So I asked, "What's your favorite album?" Their reply was a sheepish grin, "Well, actually we are JOHN Lennon fans."  I'm sure after this awesome concert they are now JULIAN Lennon fans as well.

Lisa and Pat arrived, and Pat and I ordered a pitcher of Virginia Native Red ale, brewed on premises! The Push Stars came on at 7:30, and played a decent, but undistinguished set. I did like their last song a lot, which was about their feelings when they went to LA to sign their recording contract two weeks ago. They mentioned a couple of times what a treat we (the audience) were going to be in for seeing Julian. They said what a professional he is and how they watch him perform every night. (This turned out to be true. When Stephanie went to the restroom later she saw the Push Stars watching Julian from one of the doors.) The Push Stars also made an allusion to the rowdiness of the Woodstock 99 crowd which rioted the night before. (This perhaps in contrast to the very well-behaved [almost comatose?] audience at the Birchmere.)

A little before 9pm, Julian took to the stage to wild applause. Right off he played three songs in a row without a word to the audience:

1) Get a Life 
2) And She Cries 
3) Day After Day

I was starting to think that he'd given up talking about the songs! Not to worry, he relaxed and starting talking to the audience and explaining the meaning of each song. The rest of the set was:

4) I Should Have Known 
5) Faithful 
6) Crucified (Stephanie's favorite) 
7) The new song: No One But You 
8) Saltwater 
9) Make It Up To You 
10) Cold (My favorite!) 
11) Valotte 
12) Photograph Smile 
13) I Don't Wanna Know 
14) Too Late for Goodbyes (band intros)

Then Julian and the band left the stage. After a few minutes of a standing ovation, the band came back on and played the encore:

15) Good to be Lonely 
16) Slippin' and Slidin' 
17) Stand By Me

Impressions of the concert: I was SOOO impressed! This was my first Julian Lennon concert, and I was not prepared for the sheer professionalism of his performance. Every song was studio quality, not a missed note (except once, I'll mention in a moment) and Julian displayed an incredible vocal range. The band members, who Julian introduced during "Stand by Me," were top-notch. Most of the band members had played on the album, and a couple had song-writing co-credits as well. Julian's vocal prowess was incredible, he hit all the high notes and in tune. If Julian hadn't bobbled one note (frog in the throat) near the beginning of the concert, Stephanie remarked she would have suspected the performance was prerecorded! It was that good! I believe Julian and his band could go into the studio and put down tracks in one take.

Julian was annoyed with the lighting, and complained that they were boring ("Give us some color") and blinding ("I feel like I'm on a runway.") I did see a young blonde woman at the lighting booth, but have no idea if it was Julian's fiancée. There were also occasional minor problems with the sound when mikes would get away from the sound guy and start squealing. One person in the audience had her camera taken away for taking pictures.

The audience was almost too well-behaved (middle-aged that most of us are). While the crowd went "wild" when he played "I Don't Wanna Know," only one person got up to dance in the aisle. After one of the more quiet songs which ended on a soft piano melody, the audience stayed absolutely quiet until the keyboard player motioned at the audience, at which point applause was vigorous. Then Julian remarked to the audience, "You had me worried for a moment there."

I was blown away by the new song, "No One But You," which Julian said would be on an upcoming CD, "if I have anything to do with it." I was expecting something a little rough, perhaps still in the conceptual stages, but if was full-out studio quality. And it's a keeper, I loved it!

Julian had the audience participate during "Too Late for Goodbyes," helping to sing the chorus.

Julian was in great form and seemed to really love the audience, who loved him back. He said he would be back in a year.

No radio personalities were present to introduce Julian.

I had to get up at 5am the next morning to go to work, so we didn't try to get backstage. On the way back home to Maryland, I cranked up Photograph Smile on the CD player and we both sang along. We agreed that the quieter ballads (like the title track) were more effective in concert than on the CD.

I so much wish I could also see Julian in Annapolis next week. Unfortunately, I will be leaving for Vermont on Sunday for a much-needed vacation. Believe me I am tempted to go up a day early and stop in Boston to see him there!

Send comments to wonderb@bellatlantic.net.